Newcastle send warning to Spurs, Chelsea and Man United with 'disruptor' Paul Mitchell

Paul Mitchell had always wanted to return to work in England, but only for the right project. Make no mistake, if the conditions were not right, Mitchell would not have become Newcastle United's new sporting director yet it is rather telling that the 42-year-old referenced the club's 'ambition' in his first statement in the role.

There had been one or two question marks about the club's direction after Dan Ashworth left to join Manchester United, but CEO Darren Eales vowed 'our exciting journey doesn't stop' and this is a long-term project that clearly still holds appeal. Why wouldn't it? Newcastle's ambition is to become a top six sustainable club that competes for trophies or, in other words, a club that consistently disrupts the established order. That will have struck a chord with Mitchell.

Eddie Howe once spoke about how Newcastle 'were not here to be popular...we're here to compete' and those words could just so easily have been uttered by Mitchell regarding any of the clubs he previously worked at, whether it was AS Monaco, RB Leipzig, Spurs or, even, Southampton.

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"We like to task ourselves with being disruptors," he told the Athletic during his time at Leipzig. "We have to try to do things a little bit different. We have to try to be more involved, more diligent, more intelligent. We’ve got to have a clear, defined strategy of what we are trying to achieve and deliver on that."

Sound familiar? It is easy to see how obsessives like Howe and Mitchell will align despite the pair never previously working together. They favour a similar style of high-intensity football; put great emphasis on character in recruitment; know the inner workings of the Premier League; and are former professional footballers of a similar age who both had their careers ended by serious injury, which has only spurred them on.

Having Mitchell in place this summer will be important for Howe. The Newcastle boss would have ideally liked the appointment to have been made even sooner after Ashworth was placed on gardening leave back in February, but he also stressed the importance of finding the right person and Mitchell has a strong record in recruitment.

It is important to note that one person is never solely responsible for signing a player, and not every new addition is a hit, but there were plenty of success stories at clubs Mitchell previously held influential roles at. Sadio Mane, Dusan Tadic, Toby Alderweireld and Ryan Bertrand were among those who arrived during his time as the director of recruitment and scouting at Southampton. Son Heung-min, Dele Alli, Kieran Trippier, Alderweireld (again) and Victor Wanyama were brought in when Mitchell was head of recruitment and analysis at Spurs. Christopher Nkunku, Patrik Schick, Dani Olmo and Nordi Mukiele were picked up when Mitchell was in the same role at RB Leipzig before he went to Monaco.

A number of players went on to make huge profits - Axel Disasi, for instance, was signed by Monaco for €13m and the defender went on to bank the club more than three times that figure when he joined Chelsea - and Newcastle certainly need to become better traders. The owners inherited a squad in deep relegation trouble, in 2021, but the fact remains that Allan Saint-Maximin and Chris Wood were the only players to bring in fees of note before last weekend's frantic scramble.

Mitchell is a recruitment specialist, but the sporting director's role won't just be limited to transfers. In fact, the Stalybridge native has already spoken about maintaining Newcastle's 'growth and long-term competitiveness in all areas of elite football performance'.

The academy will be a big focus for Mitchell, who ensured youngsters had a pathway when he became Monaco's sporting director in 2020, following the Principality's ill-advised €350m spend in the two years before his appointment. Monaco, in truth, had long lost their way.

The training ground was a building site. There were 77 players with professional contracts on the club's books. Remarkably, Benoit Badiashile and Aurelien Tchouameni, who went on to move to Chelsea and Real Madrid respectively, were unused substitutes in Monaco's final game before the COVID shutdown and Mitchell's arrival.

Mitchell overhauled the squad, turning it into one of the youngest in Europe's major leagues, and brought in a number of specialists behind the scenes, including Laurence Stewart, who is now at Chelsea, as head of recruitment and development, and performance director James Bunce, who worked on injury prevention and making the players more robust.

While Mitchell is likely to conduct his own audit at Newcastle, there are already some solid foundations in place and a number of well-respected operators in situ, such as head of recruitment Steve Nickson and academy manager Steve Harper. Also, in contrast to when predecessor Ashworth came in, two years ago, Newcastle have become more joined up; new departments, like psychology, have been set up; the training ground continues to be modernised; the women's team are on the up; the academy has been strengthened; staff have been beefed up; and scouting networks have been overhauled.

Mitchell will now have a big influence on the next stage of that rebuild.