The Newcastle United Saudi-financed takeover dilemma as Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron's futures are cast into doubt

Following on from another three points banked, Newcastle United take on West Ham United at St James’s Park this afternoon, in what looks to be yet another winnable Premier League encounter.

Sunday, 5th July 2020, 8:00 am

While positivity around the proposed £300million takeover by PIF, Reuben Brothers and PCP Capital Partners has waned among the United fanbase, the good news on the pitch just keeps on coming.

Steve Bruce’s Magpies put in arguably (or not) their stand out Premier League performance of the season at Bournemouth on Wednesday, as goals from Dwight Gayle, Sean Longstaff, Miguel Almiron and Valentino Lazaro saw United tear the relegation-threatened (or doomed) Cherries to shreds at the Vitality Stadium.

Same again Sunday? Will Allan Saint-Maximin start? What of his and Miguel Almiron’s future? Has Bruce earned the chance to steer United into unchartered waters post-takeover? Here our writers Liam Kennedy and Jordan Cronin tackling the burning issues in our weekly Sunday morning feature Toon Trending Topic.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - JULY 01: Allan Saint-Maximin of Newcastle United holds off Adam Smith of Bournemouth during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Newcastle United at Vitality Stadium on July 01, 2020 in Bournemouth, England.

Just how good is Allan Saint-Maximin? And what price do you think he’s worth in the current market?

LK: “He’s brave, he’s quick, he works and he excites. ASM, at the moment, is the form player of the Premier League, bar none. And it is no surprise to see his agent leaking out that he wants a new contract reflective of his elevated standing in the side. For me, he’s a player who in France always showed the talent to rise to the top, but lacked the end product and, at times, the right attitude. The Premier League has delivered a new challenge for the player – and he’s grasping it with both hands. To be honest, I don’t care what his value is, all I know is it’s a whole lot more than the Magpies paid for him. He’s a player I want to help lead United into a new dawn. I think he wants to do that, too.”

JC: “He is the first player that has got many fans on the edge of their seats since Hatem Ben Arfa. Ability wise, I think Ben Arfa had a little bit more but Saint-Maximin is showing he has a bit of everything alongside his raw talent. Yes, he’s a bit eccentric at times but that is what makes him such a special player and that is why Newcastle fans have taken to him immediately. The price Newcastle paid for him, believed to be £16.5m, is an absolute steal – you’d think he has at least doubled that now. He deserves huge credit for the way he has adapted to the Premier League – just look at Nicolas Pepe’s struggles at Arsenal.”

Would you cash in on Miguel Almiron, if Atletico Madrid, as the Paraguayan’s agent suggests, come knocking this summer?

LK: “Almiron is a player who I really like. He always plays with a smile on his face. He lacks a killer instinct at times in the final third but has seven goals this season – some of them very impressive. In short he is a player whose value will have increased massively from the £16million paid last year (it was reported as an inflated £21m). If Diego Simeone wants to part with say £40-50m, then I’d say yes. Otherwise United have no need to sell the player.”

JC: “The quotes from Almrion’s agent took me by surprise if I'm honest. I’m a big Almiron fan, he’s a likeable character and I want him to stay but if he is hinting for a move elsewhere then let him go.”

How much credit does Steve Bruce deserve for the job he’s done at NUFC?

LK: “A lot of this answer depends on your expectations. If you are Mike Ashley and set targets of 17th every season, then he’s done a fantastic job. If you are a Newcastle fan, it is OK to commend Bruce for his solid work, but aspiring to 13th in the Premier League, where United currently stand, is not ‘manager of the year’ stuff, as some would have you believe.”

JC: “Bruce has achieved what he was asked to do by the current regime and that is keep Newcastle in the Premier League, so yes he deserves credit. However, the one thing that really irks me is the constant comparisons to Rafa Benitez. A number of pundits seem to be praising Bruce just to have cheap digs at fans, which shows a complete lack of understanding.”

And does he deserve a chance to take the team forward if/when the takeover goes through?

LK: “If Bruce goes on to win another three/four plus games between now and the end of the season United might well find themselves in the top half of the table. If that’s the case then it would be harsh to get rid. But I would be very surprised if new owners, investing their own cash, would not want to make their mark early. Changing manager is one way to do that.”

JC: “I think it’d be harsh to sack any manager in the first season of their contract when they have fulfilled their job remit but new owners bring fresh ambition and objectives. Rightly or wrongly, I just don’t think Bruce fits the bill when you’ve got the cash to go out and potentially get someone like Mauricio Pochettino for example.”

What did you make of the Sean Longstaff experiment?

LK: “It worked. And I want to see it again. Longstaff has struggled under Steve Bruce and the half hour cameo as a No10 was a joy to watch on Wednesday. After injury struggles and lacking a real identity in the team post-Rafa Benitez, Longstaff looks to breaking free of his shackles again – and that can only be a good thing for United.”

JC: “I said after the Oxford game in the FA Cup that I wanted to see more of Longstaff at No10 and he once again looked a threat from that position at Bournemouth. He was quick to press the opposition – as we witnessed for Dwight Gayle’s opener, he added a presence in the box and I really enjoyed the fact that he isn’t afraid to have shot – a good one at that as his two finishes at Oxford and on the south coast were exceptional. I think he has a lot to offer further up the field."

Score prediction for West Ham this afternoon?

LK: “West Ham have more to play for than United and picked up a BIG win against Chelsea last time out. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one play out as a 1-1, or for the Magpies to edge it 2-1.”

JC: “I expect West Ham to put up much more of a fight than Bournemouth, though that’s not hard… so it won’t be as straightforward as Wednesday. I think it will be a close game but Newcastle tend to have a good record. 1-0 – Andy Carroll to bag against his old club!

And finally, what is a realistic target for Newcastle United between now and the end of the season?

LK: “With just six games left to play in the Premier League I think a European spot push is probably just out of their reach. Four points, this late, is likely to be too much to make up. But with ASM in top form and the goals starting to flow another win on Sunday would certainly make things interesting with the Euro spots likely to be all the way down to eighth.”

JC: “Newcastle, at the time of writing, are only four points away from 7th place so there is no reason why the club cannot secure a top 10 finish. The pressure is off at this stage of the season for a change, so let’s see how the players respond.”