It has been 17 long years since Newcastle United fans had the pleasure of hearing the famous Champions League anthem ring out at St James’ Park.
In fact, it is seven years since the Magpies last embarked on a European adventure of any kind.
But, while these disillusioned supporters have got used to life without continental competition, this week’s Champions League curtain raise really did ram home what this great old club are missing out on.
Not so long ago, English football’s perennial underachievers were dreaming of a return to the elite. That Saudi-backed takeover pledged to bring not only the good times but also proven, top-level superstars back to St James’, all the while transforming Steve Bruce’s middling side into the North East’s answer to Manchester City.
And it was Ciro Immobile, fresh from forging his name into Serie A folklore with a record-equalling 36-goal campaign in 2019/20, who was supposed to lead the revolution.
“During the period in which there was talk of the possible purchase of Newcastle by the Sheikh’s fund they called my agent,” Immobile said in quotes translated by Goal, revealing that the Magpies had also identified Max Allegri or Luciano Spalletti as potential replacements for Bruce.
“Then the Premier League did not approve that proposal.”
According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Newcastle were set to pay £49 million for the Italy international goal-machine, while offering him a £140,000-a-week contract at St James’ Park.
So the irony will not have been lost on anyone with a Tyneside postcode when Immobile inspired Lazio’s 3-1 destruction of Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday night.
He scored one and set up another, while Newcastle fans up and down the land had little but last weekend’s thrashing against Manchester United to occupy their minds.
In his last 48 games, one of Europe’s hottest strikers now has 41 goals.
“He is at a top level, he’s a goalscorer. Last year, he was fantastic. Every year he scores so many goals!” former Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva told ViaPlay at full-time.
“We just hope that he keeps going and we have to make sure we help him. He’s a finisher.”
Newcastle’s ambitious and ultimately fruitless approach for Immobile was supposed to herald a shiny new era. Instead, it just feels like a haunting reminder of what might have been.