ALAN Pardew made a flying visit to Paris yesterday to take in France’s crunch World Cup qualifier with Spain, as Newcastle United’s preparations for next season step up a gear.
The United manager held talks over summer targets with owner Mike Ashley last week and then travelled to the French capital last night.
It is the clearest indication yet that United hope to make significant moves in the transfer market long before the summer window opens in 97 days.
The Journal understands that Newcastle are hoping to dodge the long-running “sagas” that have blighted them over the last two close seasons, and are preparing bids for young players and the three “purples” that they want to add to their squad this summer.
Pardew’s presence in France complements chief scout Graham Carr, who was spotted by French Press at France’s under-20 and under-18 internationals over the last fortnight.
United intend to return to France to make the most of their burgeoning reputation in the country, which has been aided by plenty of good will from the players imported by the club over the last couple of years.
But the cross-Channel PR drive will be underscored by genuine investment by owner Ashley, who has been impressed with the way the club’s French imports have settled and integrated into the city.
Boosted by the club’s excellent financial results he is set to put a significant chunk of the TV windfall behind efforts to return United to the top eight next year.
Indeed, United will return to St Etienne to lodge another bid for striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the summer – although their number one summer target is unlikely to come cheap.
They made contact in January but saw their offer of around £8million turned down, as did an unnamed German club who showed interest.
Now it appears as if United will have to shell out around £10million for him, although they hope a personal visit from Mike Ashley has illustrated the club’s desire to lure him to St James’ Park over the summer.
Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City have also been linked – along with Paris Saint Germain. His agent Oscar Damiani said: “St Etienne have already turned down a bid from another French club back in January and will now demand a minimum of €12m.”
Meanwhile, United will be without Davide Santon for this weekend’s trip to Manchester City – while Mathieu Debuchy is also a doubt. But Massadio Haidara, who was the subject of the a horror tackle from Callum McManaman a fortnight ago, has been passed fit and should be fit for the trip to the Etihad Stadium.
Jonas Gutierrez (pictured below) believes the fortnight break has proved a good thing for United, who have been able to rest aching limbs ahead of a pivotal month.
He said: “It has been a good thing. In the last few games we’ve had a lot of injuries.
“We want some of the squad back now. We’ve had a two-week break which is good because we have a lot of important games coming up.
“What has been good is that we have been able to breathe easier because we have put some distance between us and the bottom places.
“It’s good to focus and be able to look up the table the other way. We hope that we can do the right thing and get the four or five wins we’d like and do well in the Europa League too. If we can go through in that and finish in the top ten we’d be happy.”