A quality XI of players Newcastle United sold in the Mike Ashley era
With a new era beginning at Newcastle United and rumours swirling over a string of potential big-money signings thanks to their new Saudi Arabian owners, things look set to change on Tyneside.
Not only could bigger names and better players be set to join the Magpies, but they should be in a position to keep their brightest talent – such as Allan Saint-Maximin – now.
With Mike Ashley now gone, we’ve taken a look back at the deeply unpopular owner’s time in charge of the club and compiled a team of the best players who were let go under his regime.
GK: Shay Given
As Newcastle’s record Premier League appearance maker, with 354 games to his name, Given was a stalwart for the Magpies through much of the late 1990s and 2010s. He deservedly earned a reputation as one of English football’s most consistent and reliable goalkeepers.
After a poor start to the 2008-09 season and issues regarding Ashley’s purchase of the club, however, Given left Tyneside for Manchester City in 2009 for a fee of just £5.9million – becoming one of the Sky Blues’ first signings post their own big-money takeover.
In his time at City, he would go on to win the one and only major trophy of his career, the 2011 FA Cup, before moving on to Aston Villa and then ending his impressive career at Stoke City in 2017.
RB: James Tavernier
Oh, what could have been if Tavernier had been given a chance at St. James Park.
The talented full-back was played just ten first-team games during his five years at the club, which also included loan spells to eight different teams.
He departed the club permanently in 2015 to join Rangers, where he has since gone on to become one of the Scottish giants most important players – making over 300 appearances at Ibrox and winning the SPL title in 2021 under the management of Steven Gerrard.
And that’s without even mentioning his ability when taking a free-kick.
Happy Birthday and Happy Halloween @James_Tavernier
— Ladbrokes (@Ladbrokes) October 31, 2016
CB: Fabrizio Coloccini
Maybe the best hair to ever grace the Premier League?
Coloccini is probably about as close to a Newcastle legend as anyone in this team can claim, spending eight years at the club and playing 275 times for the Magpies.
The defender was captain for much of his time with the team and even lead them to the 2010 Championship title.
He eventually departed in 2016 for Argentinian outfit San Lorenzo before then moving on to Aldosivi where he still plays his football today.
CB: Chancel Mbemba
Mbemba has developed into a truly high-quality centre-back since leaving for Porto three years ago, playing a key role as the club won the Primeira Liga title in 2020 and featuring alongside Pepe in their backline as they dumped Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus out of the Champions League last season.
When looking at the Magpies defensive record in the Premier League so far the season, this will certainly be one that fans are wishing was still on Tyneside today.
LB: Jose Enrique
An extremely solid full-back, Enrique was a regular fixture in the Premier League for six years during spells with both Newcastle and Liverpool.
The Spaniard was hampered by injury during his latter years in England, however, suffering a persistent problem with his right knee which limited him to just 21 appearances during his final three seasons on Merseyside.
One of his best moments involving Newcastle though was surely on his return to St James Park when he had to play as a goalkeeper for the final 13 minutes of a game for Liverpool in 2012 – which is without doubt enough to get him into this team in our opinion.
“I was our best goalkeeper that season, I kept the most clean sheets.” 😂
Eight years ago today, Pepe Reina got sent off at St James’ Park and Jose Enrique finished the match in goal…
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) April 1, 2020
RCM: Moussa Sissoko
Sissoko signed for Newcastle for just £1.5million in 2013 and departed the club for Tottenham three years later for £30million – suppose this wasn’t too bad a piece of business by Ashley in fairness.
CM: Yohan Cabaye
A brilliant playmaker and a superb creative talent – Cabaye was the poster boy for the “French revolution” that Newcastle attempted throughout the mid-2010s.
A player who often looked a cut above the rest during his time at St James Park, the midfielder made 93 appearances for the club before making a £19million move to PSG, where he won two Ligue 1 titles.
Despite the team’s success, however, Cabaye never quite managed to cement his place himself in the first team in Paris – eventually returning to the Premier League with Crystal Palace in 2015 where he, unfortunately, struggled to hit the highs of his earlier spell with the Magpies.
LCM: Georginio Wijnaldum
The biggest success story of any player in this team after leaving Tyneside, Wijnaldum won both the Premier League and Champions League with Liverpool after joining for £22million in 2016.
Before the highs of his time at Anfield, though, the Dutchman also enjoyed some memorable moments during his sole season with the Magpies 2015-16 – most notably when he hit four goals in a 6-2 win over Norwich.
The attacking midfielder now finds himself playing alongside the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar at PSG – suppose he’s not done too badly for himself then?
— ToonArmy (@toonarmy_com) October 18, 2021
RW: James Milner
We were always going to slot him in somewhere.
You might say the right side of the attack is an awkward fit, but you can be confident Milner will do a job anywhere – and according to Transfermarkt, seven of his 782 total career appearances have been there, which is enough for us.
A consummate professional that’s won three Premier League titles, an FA Cup, the Champions League and a Club World Cup – yeah, maybe Newcastle should have tried a little bit harder to keep hold of Milner back in 2008.
ST: Ivan Toney
Despite just making four first-team appearances, Toney was seemingly deemed not good enough for the Magpies and was sold to Peterborough United for a fee believed to be around just £650,000 in 2018.
Since then the striker’s career has sky-rocketed – he scored 24 goals in a season for a Peterborough in League One before then netting an incredible 31 for Brentford in the Championship last season.
The 25-year-old has continued to impress with the Bees in the top-flight this campaign, memorably scoring against Arsenal in Brentford’s 2-0 win over the Gunners on the opening weekend.
LW: Hatem Ben Arfa
It’s difficult to think of many players with more raw talent to have played in the Premier League in recent years than Ben Arfa.
The winger loved a stepover as much as he loved a breathtaking solo goal and constantly proved to be one of the league’s most entertaining players to watch throughout his five seasons on Tyneside.
The Frenchman eventually left Newcastle in January 2015 following a bizarre loan spell with Hull City which ended when after just eight games after he reportedly left the country without warning, unbeknownst to then-manager Steve Bruce.
Spells with clubs including PSG and Nice would follow before Ben Arfa finally hung up his boots at Bordeaux last season.
📅 ON THIS DAY IN 2012: Hatem Ben Arfa scored this incredible solo goal for Newcastle.
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) April 9, 2021
Bench: Tim Krul, Mathieu Debuchy, Scott Parker, Mikel Merino, Florian Thauvin, Andros Townsend, Ayoze Perez, Demba Ba