The January transfer window will be crucial for Newcastle United. With just one win in the first half of the Premier League season, they find themselves in the bottom three, in desperate need of reinforcements.
There are many reasons players could be persuaded to move to Tyneside – playing at St James’ Park in front of 52,000 passionate fans, the possibility of building a successful new era under the new owners, and, of course, the prospect of hefty wage packets.
But there is another reason many players have made the move to the north east over the years that may help them again, and it is rather unusual.
A number of signings – past and present – have mentioned the 2005 film Goal! – a rags-to-riches story in which a young Mexican heads to Newcastle and becomes a Premier League star – as part of the reason they joined Newcastle.
Current top scorer Callum Wilson arrived from Bournemouth in summer 2020 for £20m. There was interest from Aston Villa, which must have been tempting for a Midlands native. But in an interview with the club’s official website, Wilson namedropped Goal! as the decisive factor in his move, 15 years after its release.
“My son is getting to that age now where he’s watching more movies and more football. He watched Goal! so I’m sitting there watching it with him and it’s all about Newcastle.
“I got the little boy in me excited and you’re thinking, yeah that’s the one for me.”
Other players have cited Goal! as a reason for pulling on the black and white stripes.
Jonas Gutierrez, the Argentine winger who signed from Real Mallorca in 2008, said last year: “As a young boy, I used to get up early to watch English football, and it was my dream to play for one of those teams.
“I knew Newcastle because of the film Goal! with Santiago Munez, and also because of Daniel Cordone and Christian Bassedas, who were playing there and had been at my team in Argentina.”
‘I didn’t hesitate’
Midfielder Isaac Hayden once said: “I’ll always remember watching Goal. I was only a kid and I remember thinking, wow, if they’re making a film about Newcastle it must be some club.”
Algerian forward Islam Slimani said when he joined the Magpies in 2018: “Newcastle is a historic club so I’ve known about it from a very young age. When I was young, the film Goal! was around – and there were legendary players like Alan Shearer.”
And French left-back Massadio Haidara, who signed in 2013, said: “I watched the film Goal! and Santiago Munez was at Newcastle, so in fact I already knew it. That’s how I learned about Newcastle and as soon as there was an opportunity, I didn’t hesitate.”
Senegal striker Papiss Cisse, who joined from Freiburg in 2012, and Brazilian midfielder Kenedy, have been among the others to mention the movie’s influence.
Goal! starred Kuno Becker as Santiago Munez and followed his journey from scoring the goal that helps Newcastle into the Champions League to signing for Real Madrid and winning the trophy in the sequel.
Guest stars like Alan Shearer, David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Raul all made appearances.
Initially, producer Mike Jefferies pitched the idea to Liverpool and there were also discussions with Manchester United, but the deal was struck with Newcastle after then-chairman Freddy Shepherd got in touch.
Few football franchises have enjoyed success like Goal!, which garnered a cult following and exposed both the club and the city to a new global audience.
Comparisons have even been made between Munez and a couple of real players.
When Miguel Almiron became Major League Soccer’s biggest export, joining Newcastle from Atlanta United in 2019 for £21m, he was asked about the film in his unveiling in front of the media, confessing he was indeed aware of the film and links.
Then, earlier this year, the narrative went into overdrive when Newcastle signed a Mexican teenager by the name of Santiago Munoz, who currently plays for their under-23s.
Fans of the club and the film will hope he can follow in the footsteps of his fictional near-namesake and, with the help of some new signings, make the fairy tale of joining Europe’s elite come true.