The big Newcastle United change since Antoine Griezmann took an interest in club

Antoine Griezmann was busy as he prepared for Euro 2020 last summer.

The France international filled his hours away from the training pitch with a project on Football Manager.

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Griezmann told team-mate Kylian Mbappe, sat across the aisle, that he had signed him for €134million. Mbappe, one of the biggest names in world football, was unimpressed.

“Newcastle? It’s not hot there,” said the forward, bluntly.

Certainly, at the time, the unambitious club was an unattractive destination – and not just because of the weather. But a lot has happened since then. Owner Mike Ashley sold up late last year, and Steve Bruce, head coach at the time, left soon after the takeover.

A real project is underway at United, now 80%-owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, and the club is a more attractive destination, even if the weather may be unappealing for some players.

Bruno Guimaraes celebrates Brazil's win over Switzerland.

And the representation of Newcastle at the World Cup in Qatar underlines the scale of the investment made in the squad over the past two transfer windows.

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United have five players at the tournament – Bruno Guimaraes, Kieran Trippier, Callum Wilson, Nick Pope, Fabian Schar – and another, Garang Kuol, will join in January. By contrast, there was just one Newcastle player – Aleksandar Mitrovic – at the tournament when it was staged in Russia four years ago.

Thankfully, the colder weather on Tyneside didn’t put off Guimaraes from joining the club in January. The midfielder has been a revelation since his £35million move from Olympique Lyonnais, and he showed that a move to the club can help a player on the international stage.

Guimaraes starred after coming off the bench for Brazil in their last game against Switzerland – and there are calls in his homeland for him to start the final group game.

Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe.
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The 25-year-old has developed as a player under the guidance of head coach Eddie Howe.

And it’s becoming clear that a move to Newcastle should no longer be seen as a backward step by players with big ambitions.