Newcastle United and Mike Ashley have stayed silent, so far, on the revelations and claims from Kevin Keegan’s new book.
“My Life in Football”, Keegan’s forthcoming autobiography, details what happened during his ill-fated second spell as manager a decade ago.
Keegan claimed a proposed move for Luka Modric was rejected because Tony Jimenez thought the midfielder, also wanted by Tottenham Hotspur at the time, was “too lightweight”.
The signings of Xisco and Nacho Gonzalez in the book have also been questioned by Keegan, who resigned after just eight months in charge and was later awarded £2million after making a claim of constructive dismissal.
Reflecting the experience, Keegan said: “I came up against a wall of incompetence, deceit and arrogance, you couldn’t make up some of the things that happened at Newcastle under this regime. It was a tragicomedy.”
In the book, Keegan is critical of a number of figures at the club, including Jimenez, who had the title of vice-president (player recruitment) at the time.
Jimenez has reacted to Keegan’s allegations with a series of claims of his own about Keegan and his conduct at the club.
Here’s what Jimenez told The Times:
“We flew Modric over to Newcastle, got him to the training ground. Everything was pretty much agreed but it was down to Mike,” said Jimenez.
“He was given the numbers – a £16million fee and £2million commission for the agent – and decided he didn’t want to take the risk.
“We had a gentleman’s agreement with Tottenham that we wouldn’t compete for the same players. We let Jonathan Woodgate go to Spurs on the basis that we would get Modric, but Mike didn’t want to pay. In the end I told Daniel Levy that we had pulled out and that Tottenham should sign him.”
“Kevin was told at the interview that this is the job, these are the financial constraints – ‘don’t take it if you don’t want it. Go back to Glasgow and run your Soccer Circus rather than creating a circus in Newcastle’, which is what he did. He just said yes to get the job.
“Kevin was a great player but lives in a time-warp. He played in an era when the top managers ran every aspect of football clubs and thinks his status in the game means he should have the same control.”
“The minute you questioned him he lost the plot. During that window we offered him the players that we were working on when we thought Harry Redknapp was coming as manager – Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Lassana Diarra – and he said none of them were good enough.
“The other player we were really keen on was Daniel Sturridge. He said he’d had him as a kid at Man City and that he wasn’t good enough for League One.
“He didn’t want Hatem Ben Arfa or Karim Benzema either. We asked Kevin for a list of players for every position, bearing in mind he had £25 million to spend. Our list included Benzema and Ben Arfa who were young players at Lyons, as well as Samir Nasri.
“Kevin took one look and called them all chancers. His list was David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Ronaldinho, Kaka among others. We added their transfer value up and it was £399million, plus £100million in wages.”
“Kevin wanted to give him a new five-year deal on £140,000 a week. We made a counter offer of £80,000 which would reach £120,000 if he played 65 minutes per game. Keegan went ballistic.
“He also went mad when we gave a new contract to (Andy) Carroll, whom he said would never make it as a professional. He said £300,000 was a fantastic price. We couldn’t trust his judgment.”
Nacho Gonzalez and Xisco
“He has made a lot out of Xisco and Gonzalez, but they were part of deals to sign Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutierrez, who were also players he didn’t want who did well for Newcastle.
“Sometimes you have to take a player to get the one you really want. He’s made a lot of only being given YouTube clips, but he didn’t go and watch Coloccini and Gutierrez.Kevin was looking for an excuse to go and could have walked out at any point from the moment he joined.”
“Mike wanted me to sell the club on the basis of my relationships in the Middle East, so I came in under the cover story of working in player recruitment.
“If he had played his cards right Mike could have sold Newcastle to Abu Dhabi before they bought Manchester City.”