NIGERIA will not ask for Shola Ameobi to be banned from playing for Newcastle United.
The 31-year-old is available after Saturday’s Premier League match at Norwich City, which he misses because of his red card at Brighton and Hove Albion.
The Super Eagles had threatened a further suspension when the striker refused to take coach Stephen Keshi’s phone calls after being called into their provisional African Cup of Nations squad. Nigeria did not include him in their final 23-man party, but have decided against further action. Fifa could have banned Ameobi from club football until five days after Nigeria were knocked out of the tournament, which could have been any time between January 29 and February 10.
But Nigeria have changed their mind and will not petition the world governing body.
“We will not be appealing to Fifa to stop Ameobi playing for Newcastle,” Nigerian Football Federation general secretary Musa Ahmadu confirmed. “There are more important issues than Ameobi.” Board member Chris Green explained: “We have decided to focus our energy on the players and officials going to the Nations Cup.
“There’s no point creating unnecessary distraction or pushing for sanctions when we have capable players. We have the rules firmly on our side to seek punishment but that will not make any positive contribution to our preparations.”
Keshi claimed there was a clause in Ameobi’s contract prohibiting him from playing in the tournament, but Fifa rules do not allow this. Papiss Cissé was banned from Newcastle’s Premier League game against Swansea City in November after Senegal were unhappy he failed to report for a match, citing a back injury.
The Magpies only found out on the day of the game that Cissé would be unavailable.
Ameobi made his first – and possibly only – international appearance that week. Cissé is the only frontline striker available at Norwich. Ameobi was sent off for two cautionable offences during last week’s FA Cup third-round defeat.
Newcastle want to sign another forward as soon as possible, but it looks increasingly unlikely they will do so in time for the new man to face the Canaries.
Newcastle hope for permission to talk to Marseille’s Loïc Rémy this week, but with rival interest from Borussia Dortmund, Schalke 04 and Inter Milan, a quick deal may be difficult.
Nile Ranger and Adam Campbell – neither of whom has scored in the Premier League – could be substitutes at Carrow Road. Ranger has made four appearances this season, but only one start, whereas 18-year-old Campbell’s only senior football was a 13-minute run-out at Atromitos in a Europa League play-off.
Theoretically £5.7m signing Xisco is an alternative, but having not played first-team football for Newcastle since August 2010, that seems unlikely.
Three London clubs have been linked with Danny Simpson, while AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has expressed admiration for fellow full-back Davide Santon.
When Simpson returns from a broken toe, it will be as back-up to France right-back Mathieu Debuchy.
Simpson (pictured right) recently started a relationship with singer-songwriter Tulisa Contostavlos. Fulham, West Ham United and Queens Park Rangers are thought to be ready to exploit that, and his availability on a free transfer this summer, to agree a cut-price deal.
Meanwhile, ever-diplomatic former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi name-dropped Santon in an interview about plans to build “a completely new team and look for the best young people around the world”.
He said: “(Mattia) Destro and Santon? I like both.”
Milan’s interest will be unwelcome at St James’ Park, where former Inter left-back Santon was one of Newcastle’s most consistent players in 2012 until running out of steam over the Festive period.
As expected, Newcastle’s home game against Southampton has been moved to February 24, at 1.30pm.
The Magpies are in Ukraine in the Europa League the previous Thursday.