Newcastle United are facing a monumental summer off the pitch. Eddie Howe makes a valid point when he says it will be the 'toughest transfer window' to date as the Magpies enter a new phase in their bid to disrupt England's elite.
The Champions League brings with it the glory of sitting at Europe's top table, incredible riches in the form of competition bonuses and increased revenue and the chance for Newcastle fans to once again dust off their passports for memorable nights on the continent. However, it also brings new challenges.
For starters, Newcastle now have navigate football's biggest competition with a squad made up of a chunk of players fighting to stave off relegation not too long ago. If the Magpies are to fight on four fronts next season, they need more investment this summer.
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Howe, however, seems happy to keep things simple. His response at Friday's pre-match press conference will have no doubt shocked some sections of the Geordie faithful as he admitted there would only be a small number of incomings, coupled with '95 per cent' of his current crop staying put.
"We'll have to produce a squad for the Champions League," Howe said. "So top four won't change the amount of numbers [we bring in]. As I've said, it won't be a lot of numbers and a lot of big moves in. Hopefully it'll be the right two or three players to make us better."
Howe stressed squad players like Paul Dummett and Matt Ritchie had 'earned' the chance to stay beyond the summer to help with the depth at Newcastle but there is an outside clamour for the club to go and sign six or seven new additions to give the Magpies the best chance of fielding two equally-strong XIs when required.
Despite their new-found wealth in recent years, Newcastle are still bound by Financial Fair Play and the need to balance the books. The club's current kit sponsorship deal sees them pocket a meagre £6.5m-per-season which is a huge restriction when it comes to strengthening with new arrivals.
Three names that refuse to go away in relation to Newcastle's transfer business are Declan Rice, James Maddison and Kieran Tierney. Those three deals alone would likely wipe out Howe's summer budget entirely.
Though the Newcastle boss admits the plan this summer is still to target 'marquee' additions - in a similar fashion to Isak's arrival last summer. “Yes, there would be players we’d love to bring in that would be classified in that bracket [as a marquee signing], I’m sure," he said.
“For me, it’s more about the role they can fulfil in the team – whether that’s viewed positively or as a marquee signing, then great. I’m not in my mind thinking, ‘We have to have one of those players that ticks that box for the supporters’. As much as I’d love to do that, it’s about finding the right player in the right position who I think makes us better.”
There is no doubt Newcastle will be stronger by the time the 2023/24 campaign rolls around. The only question revolves around whether Howe sticks to his guns regarding two or three new, top-class additions - or whether the need to strengthen away from the starting XI becomes apparent as the window progresses.
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