NEWCASTLE United were dealt a major setback in the transfer market last night as QPR staged an 11th-hour hijack of their move for France striker Loïc Rémy.
The club have been left frustrated and angered by QPR’s late intervention and Rémy’s remarkable volte face, which has sent them back to a pool of targets that includes Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bafetimbi Gomis.
United believed that they had done enough to secure an £8.3million move for Rémy on Sunday – and the move was significantly advanced enough for the forward to call Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa to ask for their take on matters at St James’ Park.
But the player’s representatives met relegation-threatened QPR late on Sunday night and were made an eye-watering offer of £80,000-a-week plus bonuses that has swayed Remy in favour of a move to the ailing South London club.
He is expected to be announced as a QPR player imminently.
United insiders are telling The Journal they were ready to “move on” to other targets.
Marseille sporting director Jose Anigo confirmed QPR had agreed a fee and said last night: “I don’t think Rémy has shut the door on QPR, as has been said everywhere.”
Rémy had not officially signed for either club last night but a senior United source told The Journal the club confirmed they expected the player to sign for QPR.
It would be a bitter blow for Newcastle, who have spent most of January pursuing Remy, but if he opts for Loftus Road it would say much about the player’s motivation.
United will certainly not be prepared to offer a similar contract to QPR, which would include a low release clause in case the club are relegated.
They will move on to other targets, with St Etienne’s Aubameyang moving to the head of United’s targets.
Lyon striker Gomis is another target that United have been tracking this month.
Although it may result in disappointment this time, United’s policy of managing their finances – and not allowing players to dictate wages – has been a common theme of Mike Ashley’s time in charge. A difficult deal was always going to be made tougher by the presence of so many agents.
News of Remy’s potential change of heart began to break on Monday afternoon, and was sent into fever pitch by Joey Barton Tweeting that he had been told the player was now signing for QPR.
Meanwhile, United’s mercurial star Hatem Ben Arfa has given an interview to La Parisien newspaper in which he spoke of his desire to play for PSG in the future.
That was backed up by later comments to BeIn Sport in France, where he said PSG was the “club of his heart”.
“After I have saved my club, you never know. Signing for PSG would be a childhood dream,” he said. “If there is a proposal, I will study it with interest. If there is a proposal. The ‘if’ is important.
“PSG is a club that lives in my heart. To play would be a nice gift.”
A move is very unlikely any time soon, with Ben Arfa considered by the hierarchy to be one of Newcastle’s crown jewels. He has never spoken about leaving and admitted it was far from his mind.
He said: “I am under contract with Newcastle and I’m fine. First, I must save my club. I only think of that.
“I will help my team and my coach (manager Alan Pardew), with whom I get along great. We really want to fight for him. The fans are great too.”
Pardew wants Ben Arfa back for the Tottenham game at the end of the month but the forward believes it is more likely to be mid-February when he returns.
“I should be able to resume in mid-February,” he said.
“I heal from Monday to Friday at the medical centre at Clairefontaine.
“Morale is good because I’m in Paris with family. But when I see the (Newcastle) games on television, it is not easy. The team needs all players and it is almost relegation.”