Mike Ashley has often spoken with his close aides about selling Newcastle United and asked why a man who once casually paid £380million for a yacht is taking so much time to spend a little less on a football club.

In Mohammad bin Salman, who owns the Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund reportedly attempting to buy United along with Amanda Staveley and the Reuben brothers, Ashley wonders why one of the wealthiest men in the world is yet to push the button and make the transaction a reality?

Even those who dislike Ashley on Tyneside can probably see the logic in such a question.

Putting aside Bin Salman's purchase of The Serene - one of the largest boats in the world - he reportedly once paid £340million a rare Leonardo da Vinci painting.

With his family supposedly worth £1 trillion, buying Newcastle would be a drop in the ocean for him - a reason why Ashley is so intrigued.

Bin Salman is pals with the likes of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and the Queen.

It is his powerful reputation that has meant Ashley has opted against pulling the plug entirely on the deal, something he has done to Staveley before in 2017 when an approach with PCP Capital Partners was dismissed as a waste of time.

Fans on Tyneside won't believe anything on takeovers now until it's done, but as paperwork now lies on the desks of the Premier League offices, it can't be entirely discounted.

Supporters are in self-preservation mode, they have raised their hopes and glasses before, only to see wannabe bidders fall short with the money or Ashley to opt against a sale.

Speak to people close to Ashley though and they'll tell you he's been prepared to sell the club for a while, providing he can keep his private box at St James' Park for his family on match days.

Even sitting in his Miami mansion amid the virus pandemic and overseeing his own business empire, Ashley could be blown out of the water the group who have now been described as "close" to a deal by both the Daily Telegraph and The Athletic.

Although, when such claims are put to Ashley and his people, there is a different and less enthusiastic response.

Ashley is still calling the shots at Newcastle and made the decision to furlough his off-field operations team at St James' Park this week, including his entire scouting team and head of recruitment Steve Nickson.

He is still active and - as it stands - he still holds the keys.

Ashley is preparing for the possibility of the 2020/21 season, whatever that will look like.

If the price is right, he could also sell just as quickly, but it is the money, the offer and the agreement he is looking for, not paperwork or media reports.

Talk that the Public Investment Group would take over first came in January before Ashley then started to show up at United games again.

The response from those close to him is that he now waits for the wannabe bidders to show they are for real.

They can afford it - so what's the hold-up?