The state of Saudi Arabia is in talks to buy Newcastle United from Mike Ashley for around £340m and a takeover could be completed within a matter of days, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The Public Investment Fund is leading the purchase on behalf of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, together with a group of investors organised by Amanda Staveley, the British businesswoman based in Dubai who has previously failed in a bid to buy the football club.

The purchase would represent the biggest move yet by Saudi Arabia into the world of sport, having recently hosted the boxing heavyweight world title fight between Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua.

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The country hopes to use sport as a means of leveraging influence in the West, and could be set to begin a rivalry with UAE-owned Manchester City, the reigning Premier League champions.

Newcastle carry an understandable attraction for investment with a 52,000-seater stadium, St James’ Park, a large fanbase in the city and wide-reaching reputation, and after years of relative underachievement under the ownership of the unpopular Ashley, supporters are desperate for fresh impetus.

Talks are in an advanced stage but could still fall through, the report claims.

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