The speculation about the future of Matty Longstaff is providing a distraction from the monotony of the takeover.
As a supporter, I agree with the general view on social media that it would be a dream to play at St James’ Park in the black and white. A local player turning down a new contract to move to Udinese is impossible to understand on a purely emotional level.
However, Matty is now a professional football player and his agents will be encouraging him to take emotion out of the biggest decision of his life. As I put my bias to one side, I can see the reasoning for the young midfielder to leave this summer, with or without a takeover.
The common perception online is that Matty is waiting to see if a takeover goes through before making his decision. Many expect if it does, he would quickly put pen to paper on new terms. However, it could have the opposite impact.
A takeover will likely lead to a managerial change, which would see Steve Bruce leave the club. This is the man that has shown faith in Matty and given him his opportunity in the Premier League. The next manager may not rate him in the same way.
Further to this, a takeover will lead to bigger investment in the current playing squad. He already saw his game time decrease following the arrival of Nabil Bentaleb. When the season resumes, he will be fifth choice in the centre of the park. If more investment comes in, it is likely he would move
even further away from the first team picture.
This coupled with Bruce’s likely exit means that a takeover could increase Matty’s desire to leave. If this was a purely footballing decision, based on playing time and development, he would be more likely to be successful at St James’ Park under the current regime than one with a Saudi-boosted
The financial angle has been well covered in the media, with this being seen as his main motivation for a move away. At the age of 20, his stock is high following two eye-catching performances against Manchester United and he may not have a similar opportunity to gain a big money contract.
Matty remains at the early stage of his development and this could stall at any point. His own brother, Sean, was linked with a £50 million move to Manchester United last summer following his breakthrough. Since then, his form has been average and he hasn’t played as much as he would have liked. When Isaac Hayden and Jonjo Shelvey are both fit, he has found himself on the bench. Even Sean would admit his season hasn’t gone to plan.
This will serve as a reminder to Matty about how quickly things can change. If he fails to develop, due to lack of game time at St James’ Park, he may never get another opportunity to earn the sums of money that Udinese are offering.
A quick look at the fortunes of Rolando Aarons provides another warning in that respect. The winger was linked to Manchester City and Liverpool prior to signing his long term contract with us in 2016. Since then, the winger has played only eight times in the league for Newcastle. He has spent the last
year on loan at Wycombe Wanderers and Motherwell. It is likely that his long term future is in the lower leagues, with a move to Anfield or the Etihad Stadium a distant dream.
Meanwhile, Adam Armstrong has left the club and emerged as one of the finest players in the Championship over the last 12 months. The young Geordie should get another chance in the top flight if he maintains his current career trajectory.
Every case is different. There is a chance that Matty could sign a new deal and thrive on Tyneside over the coming years. However, the differing fortunes of two former highly-rated academy graduates will be in the thoughts of Longstaff and his representatives.
The emotion will have a say in the decision of Matty, which is why a new contract remains a possibility. However, it is easy to see why he and his agents may decide to end his time at St James’ Park.
Udinese offers a chance to test himself in a new country, with greater financial stability and opportunities to progress as a first team player. The path to regular minutes in Italy is more achievable than it currently is in Newcastle. If a takeover goes through, Matty’s task would become even more difficult. The Serie A club’s links to Watford also opens up a pathway back to the Premier League.
This is a business decision and the task of keeping Matty at the club became a lot more difficult at the beginning of the year when he was allowed to discuss terms with foreign clubs. The mistake was made when the club allowed it to get to that stage. He has seen what is out there and quite simply, it is more appealing, both financially and professionally.
Supporters, myself included, have bemoaned the lack of investment and attention paid to the academy under Ashley. We aren’t good at developing young talent, with the Longstaffs being the exception rather than the rule. Matty couldn’t be blamed for seeing a move away as the best option
for his development.
Matty’s departure could be the final disappointment of the Ashley era. The future of the midfielder wasn’t made a priority following his debut goal against Manchester United and this was a misstep.
He and his camp clearly feel undervalued, with an expectation that his emotional connection to the city would be enough to keep him at the club. This was another miscalculation by Ashley and Matty can’t be blamed if he does decide to leave.