Ruben Neves looks increasingly likely to return to the Premier League with Arsenal in January after a source explained why their main competitors for his signature, Newcastle, appear to have faded in the transfer race.
The Portuguese star was regarded as one of the best midfielders outside the big six during his time with Wolves, earning himself a reputation as a scorer of spectacular goals. That form saw Neves linked with high-profile moves to Barcelona, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool, so it came as a major surprise when the player utlimately departed Molineux to move to Al Hilal.
However, just a matter of months into his move to Saudi Arabia, Neves is pushing for a return to the Premier League, having failed to settle in the Middle East.
Of that trio, Newcastle’s need is perhaps the most desperate. Eddie Howe’s side are suffering something of an injury crisis this season, with their situation exasperated by the 10-month suspension dished out to £55m summer signing Sandro Tonali for breaching betting rules dating back to his time as an AC Milan player.
And with Al Hilal also owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) who also own the Magpies, a deal to take Neves to St James’ Park appears, on the surface at least, appears a relatively straight forward one.
However, a new ruling could yet put the brakes on clubs owned by the same parties transfering players between their respective clubs.
But even if that vote does not come to notion, Newcastle’s prospects of a deal have suffered a major blow.
Neves more likely to join Arsenal than Newcastle
That’s after trusted journalist Ben Jacobs revealed that his side Al Hilal are not wanting to discuss the exit of the player – and certainly not on a possible loan deal as has previously been indicated.
Worried about the message it would send about other players who have recently moved to the Gulf State, they would seemingly demand a lofty €65m (£56.9m) fee for the player, which would seemingly rule Newcastle out.
With FFP regulations to fall in line with, Newcastle cannot afford to sanction such a deal and, as Jacobs told Givemesport, negotiations between Al Hilal and the Magpies are not as straight forward as they seem.
“Those close to the Al Hilal side are not only hoping that the vote bans associated party transactions but also believe they’ll be a lot more difficult with Newcastle than people presume,” Jacobs explained. “Everyone, perhaps, is concluding that the vote could pass on November 21. Then Newcastle will negotiate without Al Hilal, but that’s just PIF negotiating with PIF, and they’ll say, ‘Great, when can he start at Newcastle?’
“But they’re different people within PIF, and the ones working 24/7 at Al Hilal might make things more difficult for Newcastle than people presume because they don’t want to lose Neves.
“The wider Saudi Pro League dealmakers don’t either because they fear that this sets a precedent that says anyone can come to Saudi Arabia and then leave Saudi Arabia if they get a better option a few months later.”
Cash sale only gives advantage to Arsenal in midfielder race
With greater funds at his disposal, and with Al Hilal only considering a cash sale only, that will reportedly put Arsenal into the driving seat for a possible deal.
Neves has reportedly made it clear he wants to leave just a matter of weeks into his three-year deal.
And with Arsenal having funds available to strengthen in January, it is they who are being backed to secure the race for Neves’ signature.
Neves has has two goals and one assist for Al Hilal so far during 17 appearances for the Riyadh-based club.