Pedro Neto’s future? Mbappe’s destination? Liverpool’s sporting director hunt? – Ask Ornstein


Earlier today, we held our latest subscriber-exclusive Ask Ornstein session.

Once a week for an hour, The Athletic’s subscribers can ask me for my views on anything from the world of football. I have pulled together some of my favourite questions and my answers to them from the latest Q&A below. Thanks to all who took part.

Want to ask me a question? I’ll be back next week for another session.


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Syed Kamraan S asked: Hi David, which Premier League club is Pedro Neto most likely to end up at this summer? Alex S asked: There’s talk of Neto to Spurs, where do you see his likeliest destination being?

David Ornstein: Good question, Syed. Neto is having a brilliant season and that makes him one to watch in the next transfer window.

The first thing to say is there’s no guarantee he will leave Wolverhampton Wanderers. He’s under contract until 2027 and the club are on course for a much higher finish than they would have budgeted for, strengthening their footballing and financial outlook.

Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Newcastle United (perhaps Manchester United, too, with Dan Ashworth moving there from Newcastle) are all admirers of the Portugal international, although they may harbour some reservations about his fitness record.

It would also take around £80million ($100m) for Wolves to part with Neto and that is another obstacle. There has been no concrete movement before the summer, so it’s impossible to say where he is most likely to end up.

And Alex, I’m not aware of Tottenham making any movement on Neto. I’m also not sure they would be in the mix for a player who is expected to cost about £80m if he leaves this summer.

Steve L asked: Assuming Dan Ashworth heads to Manchester United, who is realistically in the running to replace him at Newcastle?

Ornstein: Newcastle are just starting their process, Steve, and it is more focused on what they want rather than who they want.

They will have some names in mind from England and abroad. Don’t forget they were recruiting for this position less than two years ago and plenty of that work will probably still come in handy. They will need to decide the type of person and skill set they are looking for and then draw up candidates to fit that profile.

The owners will have their various ideas, as will other members of the hierarchy and, given the job he has done and the regard in which he is held, head coach Eddie Howe.

I’m by no means suggesting it will be his choice — and from a club point of view, it is prudent to make this their call rather than the head coach’s — but he will have input on this, as he did with Ashworth.


Ashworth is on his way to Manchester United (Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

Anil B asked: Has Kylian Mbappe really chosen Real Madrid or are other clubs still in the running?

Ornstein: The whole of the football world — including those other clubs — thinks Mbappe wants to join Real Madrid from Paris Saint-Germain. They still need to thrash out a deal, though, and until that is done, the race is technically open.

But ‘race’ is probably the wrong word because as much as other clubs would love to sign him, it seems the finances would be too steep — and even if they could make that part work, the common consensus is that the France international has his heart set on Real Madrid.

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Callum O asked: Afternoon David, any update on the 777 Partners takeover of Everton? Or is it a case of just being patient?

Ornstein: There is definite frustration, Callum, especially when INEOS started its process with Manchester United after 777 opened talks with Everton, yet INEOS’ investment has been completed earlier.

But the two cases are very different and more patience is required. This has gone way beyond the anticipated timescale, so evidently the Premier League is not yet fully satisfied.

There has always been optimism at Everton and 777 that this will eventually go through, but I don’t know of an outcome or a date when there will be one.

The expected timescale has always been the end of February. I’m not sure where all the “imminent”, “today”, “tomorrow”, “Everton have been told” rumours are coming from, but as far as I know, there is no news and nothing has been relayed to the club yet.

I hear the Nottingham Forest case will come next and then Everton’s second charge, but some are of the understanding it’s the other way around. The speculation is not helpful to anyone and the quicker there is clarity, the better — for the clubs involved and the Premier League as a whole.

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Charles P asked: As an Arsenal fan, how disappointed are you in our fanbase’s group intelligence each time someone asks you about Arsenal’s interest in a striker?

Ornstein: Never disappointed, Charles, and I have total respect for the general intelligence of fans at all clubs.

In Arsenal’s case, their supporters can see a striker is probably needed and they know from media coverage that this is on the agenda. During January, a striker was not expected to arrive (for the various reasons outlined on these pages), but it could well happen this summer.

We have also been firm that Ivan Toney, for example, would not be joining in winter and that proved to be the case. I don’t think there’s any guarantee he arrives at the Emirates Stadium in the summer, either, by the way.

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Toney might be on the move this summer (Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Arsenal and other top clubs looking at this position (such as Chelsea, Manchester United and PSG) will now be weighing up their options and all of the normal criteria (such as transfer fee, salary, agent commission, competition, age, profile and playing style). I’m not aware of Toney being the top choice at Arsenal, but these things are fluid and no doubt he will still be on the radar for them and their rivals.

So will Victor Osimhen, Benjamin Sesko, Evan Ferguson, Santiago Gimenez, Viktor Gyokeres, Joshua Zirkzee and Victor Boniface — plus others. I’m not saying Arsenal are considering all of these, they are just some of the names in the pool of talent being studied by the various leading teams aiming to strengthen in attack.

Stephen B asked: Hi David, any update on Liverpool’s search for a sporting director/manager? Surely something is close, especially on the sporting director front

Ornstein: Liverpool and their owner Fenway Sports Group would ideally like the sporting director situation decided by the end of March.

You would assume that person would then spearhead the search for a manager/head coach. Movements will already be taking place behind the scenes. As The Athletic’s Simon Hughes mentioned on Tuesday, Frederic Massara and Florent Ghisolfi are among the operators Liverpool like, while existing staff such as Dave Fallows and Barry Hunter are very highly regarded — and it feels like time is of the essence.

I reported on Mike Gordon’s unsuccessful attempt to bring back Michael Edwards and whether or not Gordon is still trying, it appears Edwards is not for turning. Meanwhile, it wouldn’t surprise me if some kind of contact has been made with the camp of Xabi Alonso (that has been reported in Germany) and others.

Any pursuit of Alonso is complicated by his job at Bayer Leverkusen, who obviously would love him to stay for longer, and Bayern Munich’s serious interest. This is all before we even mention the Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold contract situations, which I’m not aware of having developed at all.

On the pitch, there is everything to play for at Liverpool, but off the field, matters are just as important.

Medwyn G asked: What’s the next step for United following Ashworth/Jason Wilcox?

Ornstein: On Ashworth, Manchester United are talking to Newcastle intending to reach an agreement to enable him to start with them. Newcastle want £20m, United don’t want to pay anywhere near that, so they’ll need to find a compromise and until that happens, his gardening leave will continue.

I’m not sure if Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s comments yesterday will have a bearing on the situation, but they were certainly noted at St James’ Park.

I don’t have an update on Wilcox, Southampton’s director of football, since breaking the news that United were working on a deal to bring him in. Some patience is required around their attempts to bring in people under contract elsewhere.

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Wilcox joined Southampton last year (Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

But they will be speaking to others too and some of them will be available to start immediately, so it will be interesting to see if any such individuals arrive while they continue working/waiting on the originals.

Harrison M asked: What is the likelihood of Michael Olise joining Manchester United this summer?

Ornstein: If Olise leaves Crystal Palace, there will be several clubs vying for his signature. I’ve seen the same reports as you on Manchester United, but I’m not aware of anything concrete yet.

Sandip S asked: Hi David. Plain bagel or with peanut butter?

Ornstein: Peanut butter or even just butter. Never dry, Sandip.

Finally, Jake R asked: Hi David, do you think Arteta dyes his hair or is it natural?

Ornstein: Hard to tell, Jake, but either way it’s a luscious mane.

(Top photo: Naomi Baker/Getty Images)





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