A busy week that saw Newcastle United lose their captain Kevin Nolan to West Ham United but gain striker Demba Ba from the same club is likely to be a sign of things to come, as Alan Pardew’s side face a hectic summer which could see a number of other key players depart and some intriguing replacements arrive.
Prolific tweeter Joey Barton, who has used the micro-blogging site to voice his side of contract negotiations throughout the close season, decried the sale of his friend and midfield colleague Nolan to the Hammers, speculating that he, full-back Jose Enrique and winger Jonas Gutierrez would be next. Rumours of a move have surrounded the trio since well before the end of the Premier League campaign, and the Newcastle board have shown in the sale of both Nolan and Andy Carroll that if they feel a transfer is in the long-term interest of the club, there are no sacred cows. Carroll was sold on when a £35m transfer fee offered by Liverpool was judged too good to turn down, amid much mud-slinging from both the player and the club, while the 28-year-old Nolan’s request of a five year contract, and the subsequent refusal from the Newcastle hierarchy, led to the former Bolton Wanderers player linking up with Sam Allardyce at Upton Park. Selling such important assets is one thing, however, but replacing them is another matter.
Yohan Cabaye has already moved to Newcastle, a 25-year-old French international midfielder who last season won the Ligue 1 title with Lille, although Alan Pardew has been at pains to point out Cabaye is not a direct swap for Nolan. The Magpies moved early to snatch Cabaye from Lille, with the signing confirmed on June 10 but a poorly kept secret before that. Three years younger than Nolan, who is 29 on June 24, Cabaye received the long-term contract the now ex-skipper was denied, a sign of Newcastle’s desire to be prudent in their dealings with players – the days of paying injury-prone and past his peak Michael Owen a small fortune every week are long gone. Instead, with the signing of Cabaye for a fee officially undisclosed but believed to be around £5m, and the six year contract given to 24-year-old Cheik Tiote, one of the revelations of last season, Newcastle have laid down two markers – multi-year deals will only go to players with their best years ahead of them, and incoming players will be judged on their future, not their past.
Where the new policy leaves the ever-controversial Barton remains to be seen. Now 28, but off the back of arguably his best individual season in recent memory – and cleanest, with no records to his name throughout 2010-11 – the one-time England international has 12 months remaining on his contract and appears desperate for an extension. Nevertheless, last month the BBC quoted Barton’s agent as saying the Merseyside-born midfielder is likely to see out the last year of his contract before moving on. The impasse was reached over the Barton camp’s demand of a four year deal, taking the player into his early 30s, with a drop in wages to smooth the passage. As Nolan has found out this week, the guidelines appear set in stone and will not bend for any player, not even the team captain. The strategy may produce some short-term stress but if the long-term outcome is a more financially sound Newcastle with a young side competing at the top end of the table it will have been worth it, but there are no guarantees of success. A relegation battle in the absence of some experienced professionals in the coming season will put Newcastle’s policy in the spotlight.
Pardew has moved to fill the striking void left by Carroll in January with the free transfer signing of Ba from under the noses of Everton and Sunderland. Signing a three year contract, the Senegalese forward, at 26, also fits in with the decision not to award extensive deals to players pushing 30. Despite the Hammers’ relegation Ba impressed in his six months in London, scoring seven goals in 13 appearances to end the season as West Ham’s top scorer and quelling any doubts over his fitness after a failed medical saw an earlier move to Stoke City collapse. Cash-rich from the sale of Carroll and having made two shrewd, economical purchases in Sylvain Marveaux, Ba and Cabaye so far, the incomings are unlikely to be over at St James’ Park, but talk of further departures could be a continuing theme until the transfer window’s end.
Sylvain Marveaux MID – Rennes, free
Demba Ba FWD – West Ham United, free
Sol Campbell DEF – released
Shefki Kuqi FWD – released
Kevin Nolan MID – West Ham United, undisclosed
Sebastian Larsson MID – free
Mevlut Erding FWD – Paris Saint-Germain