NEWCASTLE United have compiled a three-man shortlist of strikers to replace Chelsea-bound Demba Ba, who is set to be unveiled by the European champions this afternoon.
With United in desperate need of points – the 2-1 defeat against Everton last night leaves Newcastle just two points clear of the drop zone after a disappointing Christmas – they will begin the post-Ba rebuilding job in earnest today.
Ba was still involved in negotiations with Chelsea last night, and having demanded weekly wages in the region of £90,000 there was some speculation that there may still be work to do to secure a passage to Stamford Bridge for Newcastle’s top scorer.
But Alan Pardew cut through the speculation before last night’s game with Everton, claiming it was a “done deal” and that he would leave Newcastle with United’s blessing.
“It’s done, he’ll go to Chelsea with our blessing,” Pardew said. “For us, it’s not a bad thing because all the uncertainty over whether he was going to stay, it’s now done.
“This club is bigger than any player so in some respects I’m pleased.”
That leaves United working hard to secure a replacement, with Marseille striker Loic Remy one of three international strikers being considered by Newcastle.
Remy comes with a ringing endorsement from United’s talent spotters but a deal for him is not understood to be cut and dried, and United have also checked out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of St Etienne.
The main shortlist contains two others alongside Remy, all overseas and all extensively scouted with the intention of hitting the ground running in England.
Whatever happens, Newcastle will not make a definitive move until after the weekend’s FA Cup clash with Brighton.
It also appears unlikely that they will sign two senior strikers before the end of the month – although there may be a younger player joining to supplement their striking options.
Instead they will train their attention on trying to sign a centre-back, and may return to the striker market in the summer.
Mike Ashley has indicated to Pardew that there will be money available for reinforcements and with the club having held a frank assessment of what went wrong with their recruitment efforts in the summer, they are hoping to make quick progress in the market – and may have all their priority signings wrapped up by the middle of the month.
One player they do expect to have on board in time for the trip to Brighton is France international Mathieu Debuchy, who sat alongside friend and future team-mate Yohan Cabaye in the Milburn Stand last night. He is set to sign a five-year contract and should be announced as a Newcastle player on Friday, in time to play on Saturday if Pardew judges him ready for the FA Cup clash.
The Newcastle boss said the presence of such an accomplished player would give the squad a “lift”.
They need it after suffering another defeat last night – which came in spite of Papiss Cissé’s headed goal after just 70 seconds against Everton. Cissé finished superbly to give United the lead but familiar defensive frailties came back to haunt the Magpies, who conceded to Leighton Baines’ excellent free-kick and substitute Victor Anichebe in the second half. They departed to boos as the scale of Newcastle’s troubles was exposed again.