Newcastle hold advanced talks with Dougie Freedman and Johannes Spors over becoming new sporting director

Newcastle United have held advanced talks with Dougie Freedman and Johannes Spors over the role of sporting director, Sky Sports News understands.
The club have undergone an exhaustive process and spoken to a number of candidates. It is thought they are now close to an appointment.

Freedman is currently Crystal Palace sporting director, while Spors is the global sporting director at 777 group.
Newcastle placed their former sporting director Dan Ashworth on gardening leave in February with Manchester United continuing to discuss compensation ahead of a potential appointment.Live Premier League table | Newcastle fixtures | ResultsStream Sky Sports with NOW | Get Sky SportsDownload the Sky Sports App | Get Sky Sports on WhatsAppHow to book Fury vs Usyk on Sky Sports Box Office
Freedman is the marginal favourite but Spors is also admired and has more experience and a proven track record in the European market.

The global sporting director of 777 Group emerged as a leading candidate during an extensive search to identify Ashworth’s successor.

The 41-year-old has worked at head of recruitment for RB Leipzig previously and is now working for 777, whose controversial attempted takeover of Everton is still awaiting Premier League approval and who own Genoa, Standard Liege, Hertha Berlin, Red Star in Paris and Vasco da Gama.

Ashworth is top of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s list to front up his new football operation at Old Trafford after completing his deal for a 25 per cent stake in the club.

Newcastle have not put a figure on Ashworth’s services, but it is thought it could reach in excess of £10m should Manchester United want to buy out his contract so he can start work ahead of the summer transfer window.
Ashworth joined Newcastle from a similar role at Brighton two years ago, with Newcastle themselves paying compensation to attain him.
Newcastle boss Eddie Howe has previously called for a swift resolution to the situation, and agreed that it was a concern that Ashworth, privy to sensitive recruitment information, was being approached by a Premier League rival.

Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville:
“Should Manchester United pay more money to get Ashworth now? If that’s the sporting director that they want and they want him to start straight away.
“He will have restrictions to not be able to work at another club in the same space for 12 months, I’m sure of that.
“Manchester United might say, ‘we can’t wait that long so we will pay for it’. It is imperative that United get someone in place before the next transfer window.
“If you don’t pay £10m to get Ashworth out, and you get another window wrong, you could blow another £100m. So it’s important they get the right people in.
“What Manchester United need to do is stop the rot. When Manchester United phoned any club in Europe they were going, ‘here we go, it’s bingo time, we are about to get paid a load of money’.
“Ashworth won’t allow that to happen – he’s quite resilient and measured around those situations.”

Sky Sports News reporter reporter Keith Downie:
The Englishman has the backing of the British-based owners and they believe Saudi Arabia’s Pubic Investment Fund are aligned with their thinking. Until now, there has been no reason to doubt that.
There has always been the question of how quick to act the Saudi owners would be if things started to wane but it feels as though they trust the judgement of the British-based owners.

There is a family feel behind the scenes at Newcastle, despite the imminent departure of sporting director Ashworth to rivals Manchester United.
The belief is that Newcastle were always of the impression that things were likely to hit a speed bump this season having reached the Champions League ahead of schedule last summer.
Howe, a very impressive character and single-handedly the biggest reason for Newcastle’s rise from relegation fodder to Champions League competitors, will be given the summer and beyond to rebuild his injury-ravaged squad.

The only concern would be if Christmas is reached and things are still regressing. But surely Newcastle can’t have as bad a window as they did last summer, and the schedule won’t be quite as taxing without Champions League football to contend with.
There is also a feeling from within the British-based owners they have a gem in Howe and it would be a mistake to let him go mid-project.
It is Howe’s man management and tactical brilliance that is to be thanked for their shot at glory over the past 18 months.

The biggest criticism of Howe from the Geordie faithful has been his insistence on playing certain players despite being out of form. In Howe’s defence, he has had little option at times as he worked with a threadbare squad. But the questions remain – and some of them have a point.
The return of Sandro Tonali in August will feel like a new signing. Howe may be advised to ask him to anchor the Newcastle midfield and plug a gap that has resulted in a huge swing in the number of goals conceded compared to last.
There will be money to spend this summer but Howe has already said there won’t be a huge outlay due to the Premier League’s Profitability and Sustainability Rules (PSR).

Newcastle’s latest financial figures showed a turnover of £250m, which is less than half of Manchester United and just over a third of Manchester City’s. Until they manage to compete commercially, they will always be at a big disadvantage, making that the area they need to work hardest on.
There is also the fear among the fanbase that a big name could be sold this summer to help rebuild the squad. While neither Howe nor the club owners want that, it is a possibility. In today’s PSR market, every player has his price.
In terms of summer transfer targets, Newcastle will be looking to add a left-back, a right-winger and a striker. They have been left very short at times this season and the lack of a third centre-forward has been costly.
That Sven Botman will be missing for up to nine months will mean they undoubtedly require at least one centre-back, too.
Certainly they will have a much better chance without Champions League football. But the irony is that competing in Europe’s premier competition is exactly what they want to do year on year.
Pep Guardiola made a good point in his press conference earlier this season following his team’s FA Cup win over Newcastle, pointing to the fact that playing every three days takes a while to master and that it was hard for his City side to start with.
It is new to Newcastle, their manager and most of their players. With the right recruitment this summer, they would be in a better position to deal with the demands of European football should they qualify next season.

There is a theory that missing out on Europe altogether would be advantageous for Newcastle in their quest to break back into the top four next season. But try telling that to Howe, who is desperate to be the man to end Newcastle’s trophy drought, whether that be domestic or European.
It’s also not an idea that will ring true to the majority of the club’s fans, who loved every minute of being back on European soil this season and feel they have a chance of going deep in the either the Europa League or the Europa Conference League.
To get back among England’s elite, they will also need a fair chunk of good fortune – something that has deserted them throughout this season.

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