As a festive reminder of the difference between football’s haves and have-nots, last Monday night’s TV trip to St James’ Park was, well, bang on the money.
Hosts Newcastle United, newly minted as the world’s richest club, entertained Manchester United, the planet’s third-most valuable football brand.
The hosts are fighting relegation from the Premier League, but a cash injection from the £320-billion Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund has bought plenty of bragging rights for the supporters.
When Cristiano Ronaldo ran out on the pitch, he was greeted by the sight of a banner that had mocked up the five-time Ballon d’Or winner in the famous black-and-white stripes.
In case the point was missed, there was an accompanying attempt at poetry: “Ronaldo. It’s nearly 2022, NUFC is the club for you.”
For all it was a fun bit of distraction in a time of Covid concerns, the fact remains that the Magpies have a way to go before they can attract a footballing icon of CR7’s stature.
Even if they did, they would still have a bit of catching up to do on those who have been splashing the cash around for as long as anyone can remember.
They drew 1-1, and probably would have had all three points had the Red Devils not been able to turn to their substitutes bench at half-time to change the game’s direction of travel.
On came £73-million summer signing, Jadon Sancho, and Edinson Cavani, a “free” from the previous year on some £200,000-a-week.
Such eye-watering figures will become normal for the Toon Army soon enough. On the other side of Hadrian’s Wall, they are far removed from life in Scotland’s top flight.
There are some universal truths, however.
The transfer market is huge here, just as it is in England.
Play it the right way, and you can transform your club’s fortunes. Let yourself be played like a fiddle, and months – even years – of hard work can be undone by a few phone calls.
Heading into the January window, there is no better example of the positive impact a good signing can have on a club than Kyogo Furuhashi at Celtic.
A £4.6m buy from Japan in the summer, he has looked a cut above all season long, with his match-winning display in the Premier Sports Cup Final a high-profile vindication of his recruitment.
It says it all about the success of his move that Ange Postecogolou is returning to the Japanese market for new players this month.
Had it not been for a nasty run of injuries – to Kyogo, Jota and David Turnbull – the Hoops boss would surely be worried about clubs coming in to snap up his stars.
As it is, Rangers, so smoothly-efficient under the charge of Giovanni van Bronckhorst to the delight of their support, look to have more to worry about on that front.
Everton are back in for Nathan Patterson, having already had two bids rejected for the 20-year-old, with a January move south on the cards.
With the fee liable to hit a books-balancing £10m and his squad purring along, the Light Blues boss might be tempted to leave it at that.
However, with Alfredo Morelos looking good again, and the likes of Ryan Kent, Glen Kamara, Joe Aribo and Borna Barisic much admired, whether he’ll be able to do so is another question.
Keeping hold of their talent in the windows is an issue for clubs at the best of times. When players are moving into the final few months of their deals, it is near-impossible.
Motherwell have just learned of Tony Watt’s decision to commit to a move to Dundee United in the summer, if not before, and Fir Park fans loudly aired their opinion about that on Boxing Day.
John Souttar, whose deal with Hearts is also up at the end of the season, plans to meet would-be employers including Stoke City, Blackburn Rovers and Middlesbrough over the break.
Blackburn’s boss, Tony Mowbray, clearly keeps an eye on the Scottish market as he hopes to get Aberdeen’s Ryan Hedges on a pre-contract deal.
Those being targeted by English clubs need no telling it is a potential pathway to real riches.
Among those up against Cristiano and co. at St James’ Park last Monday was Scotland winger, Ryan Fraser.
Fraser who, nine years ago this month, quit Aberdeen in a £400,000 move to Bournemouth, then in England’s third tier.
Fraser who, having come up to the Premier with the Cherries, then declined to sign a short-term extension to help them battle relegation in the Covid-delayed finish to the 2019-20 season.
If it meant a spell of being unpopular with fans on England’s South Coast, it is a fair bet the five-year-deal – worth some £10m he signed with Newcastle United three months later will have eased the pain.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe