As if Newcastle United fans needed another reason to wish for a change in ownership…
Some questionable decisions have been made by Newcastle during Mike Ashley’s time in charge, both in terms of managerial appointments and player signings.
Every scout has a story about recommending a player to the higher-ups at a football club only for the advice to fall on deaf ears.
But Newcastle’s ex-scout Graham Carr has quite a list of players that he failed to convince the Magpies to sign.
In a far-ranging interview with the Daily Mail, Carr recalls endorsing a number of Europe’s greatest talents when they could have been signed for a fraction of what they’re worth now.
Carr also remembers travelling with Ashley to watch Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang play in his early twenties but the Newcastle owner didn’t even know which player he was supposed to be looking at.
Carr said: “If the club were honest and went through the records… Hakim Ziyech, Wilfred Ndidi, James Maddison. I saw Raphael Varane play for Lens when he was 17 and I called Derek Llambias (managing director) that night. You get excited when you spot one.
“Mike and I went to Saint-Etienne to watch (Pierre-Emerick) Aubameyang. Mike just said, ‘Who am I watching?’ You recommend them, but then you just don’t know what happens sometimes.”
Carr, who was forced out of St. James’ Park when Rafa Benitez took over at Newcastle three years ago, rates Yohan Cabaye as his best spot, describing him as “a tough little bugger, but what a player.”
Carr also lifted the lid on how difficult it used to be to convince Ashley to sign a prospect as he was eager to maintain a clear dichotomy of first-team players vs. squad players while, ever the businessman, Ashley also insisted on buying players under the age of 25 who had sell-on value.
“We started talking about (Hatem) Ben Arfa. Mike had this thing with a 4-4-2, first-team players on £40k a week and understudies on £20k,” Carr explained.
“He couldn’t understand why we’d want Hatem and Jonas Gutierrez, two left wingers, on £40k. I knew Hatem could be brilliant, so I cut in, ‘He’s a No 10, actually, and he can cut in from the right’. That was it, done.”