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Saudi Arabia in bid to buy Newcastle football club: Reports

The kingdom is in talks to buy the English club for $445m, the Wall Street Journal reported
Despite being one of the best attended clubs in the Premier League, Newcastle has fallen on hard times in recent years (AFP)

A Saudi Arabia sovereign wealth fund is in talks to buy English Premier League club Newcastle United in a £340m ($445m) deal, according to reports.

The Public Investment Fund, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's key investment vehicle, has launched the bid with a group of investors organised by a British financier, Amanda Staveley, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The deal could be "days or weeks away," sources told the Journal.

The club, owned by British tycoon Mike Ashley, has refused to comment on the report.

The acquisition would be a major coup for Saudi Arabia and for the crown prince in particular, who has sought to recast the country's image with investments in entertainment and sports, the latest being the Dakar Rally, which took place in the kingdom for the first time this month.

Despite historically being one of the best attended clubs in the Premier League, Newcastle has fallen on hard times since Ashley bought the club in 2007, having been twice demoted  in that period and currently languishing near the bottom of the league table.

Chants of "Get out of our club" are routinely directed at Ashley, who is perceived as not investing in players to keep the club competitive.

Should the deal go ahead, fans will be hoping for an injection of capital similar to Gulf neighbour Abu Dhabi's investments in Manchester City, which has taken the club to historic success.

Qatar's acquisition of Paris St Germain in 2011 has helped to elevate the French club to one of the leading in Europe.

Staveley, the financier who is leading the talks, was previously involved in the deal that led to Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed's takeover of Manchester City in 2010. She was also involved in an unsuccessful bid to buy the Newcastle club in late 2017. Her company is expected to buy 10% of Newcastle in the proposed deal.

Saudi Arabia has previously shown an interest in buying Manchester United and Chelsea, but ultimately deemed both clubs as being too costly.