How Newcastle United turned things around in just one season (and without big spending)

Depending on how you define it, Newcastle United are the richest sports team/club/franchise on the planet.

Despite wink-wink assurances from the Premier League that the Saudi Arabian government would not be involved with the running of the club, the majority of Newcastle is owned by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, which is chaired by Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The PIF, per recent estimates, controls around $620 billion in assets.

According to Forbes, LA Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is the richest American sports owner, and he's worth around $80 billion. The richest NFL owner, Walmart heir Rob Walton, who led the purchase of the Denver Broncos last year, is worth around $55 billion. Combined, the two wealthiest American sports owners are worth less than a quarter of Newcastle's owners. Put another way, the combined wealth of the 19 other Premier League ownership groups is somewhere around $200 billion.

Given the, uh, let's say unclear source of Sheikh Mansour's funding of Manchester City -- Abu Dhabi has a sovereign wealth fund worth close to $800 billion, though the club isn't explicitly owned by the fund in the same way Newcastle is -- the comparison to other Premier League clubs might not be totally accurate, but the point stands: even the richest individuals or groups of the richest individuals don't exist in the same universe of financial power as nation-state funding. The average person literally can't comprehend what it's like to have a billion dollars; the average billionaire can't comprehend what it's like to have a sovereign wealth fund.

Given all of that -- and given the relatively tight link between spending and performance in the Premier League -- it's no surprise that Newcastle went from fighting relegation a year ago to a League Cup final and a real shot at Champions League qualification today. But the scary part for the rest of the league is that they haven't even really started spending like the state-sponsored teams of the past or Roman Abramovich-era Chelsea. The most famous player on the Newcastle team is ... Kieran Trippier? Their leading scorer is Miguel Almiron.

So, ahead of the first cup final of the PIF era, let's take a look at how they got here so quickly.