The Newcastle United takeover bid that had previously played out with a deafening silence is now making a racket in the public domain.
Amanda Staveley’s proposals had already been reported but only now do we have the full picture from those involved; no, two full pictures, and pictures that contradict one another.
Sky Sports have quotes from sources close to Mike Ashley, denouncing Staveley’s supposed time-wasting, prompting the Yorkshire-born businesswoman to respond with an interview in The Times.
All the while, Rafa Benitez waits on owner Ashley to make moves in the transfer market, having been briefed that there would be no takeover.
It is a mess, and a mess that is consuming fans, journalists and, seemingly, club officials.
What should not be forgotten is that Newcastle desperately need new recruits this month, and Saturday marks Benitez’s self-imposed transfer deadline; the Magpies are yet to make a significant move in or out.
Has Staveley’s interest been allowed to cause a distraction? You do not have to travel far into the Twittersphere to find conspiracy theories that relate to Ashley, but the 53-year-old has form when it comes to hesitancy in the market – particularly in January.
Although key signings have been made under Ashley – in 2010, 2012, 2013 – supporters will understandably recall the years when Newcastle kept a low profile at this time of year.
In 2008 and 2015, new managers were given nothing to work with. In 2011 and 2014, pathetic attempts were made to replace Andy Carroll and Yohan Cabaye. Even in 2016, when Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend arrived, the crucial signing of a centre forward did not follow.
There were no signings last season, either, almost costing Newcastle promotion. This time, relegation is a very real prospect.
Ashley wants Staveley or another bidder to up their offer, but he has left the club at risk of falling into the Championship once again. That would not be good for business.
Newcastle are not even all that far away. Had Benitez been allowed to bring in a couple of quality attackers in the summer, the Magpies would surely have beaten Bournemouth, Brighton and Hove Albion and Swansea City at home, improving their points tally from 23 to a comfortable 30.
The same mistakes cannot be made again, with Newcastle’s list of winnable fixtures quickly shrinking.
If takeover talks are over, as Ashley claims, the owner must invest to protect his asset. If Staveley’s hopes of securing a deal genuinely remain, the same is true.
The future of this football club will be decided on the pitch as well as in the curry houses of London. Benitez has to be backed.