NEWCASTLE United could miss out on a centre-back this month after manager Alan Pardew admitted Demba Ba’s replacement has become the sole focus of his transfer policy.
The Magpies have been a centre-back light throughout Pardew’s tenure, a problem they intended to address in this transfer window. That now depends on who they can bring in as an attacker – not necessarily a centre-forward – when, and at what cost.
With Chelsea due to pay just £7.5m for Ba – and a large chunk of that owed to the player – owner Mike Ashley will have to invest extra money for a good quality replacement. Newcastle are prioritising that, and will reassess with regards to defenders only when a forward has been landed.
“It’s going to depend a lot on how much the striker costs us,” Pardew explained yesterday. “That’s something I think we’ll come to later in the window.
“The return to fitness of Steven Taylor and getting (Mathieu) Debuchy has helped us massively, but I still think perhaps another (defender) is what we need.”
Debuchy’s £5.5m arrival from Lille, expected today, will address another long-term problem in Newcastle’s squad. Pardew has been targeting a full-back since it became clear in 2011 agreement could not be reached with Danny Simpson, whose contract expires this summer.
Even if he is signed before today’s noon deadline, right-back Debuchy will not feature at Brighton and Hove Albion in the FA Cup. He should make his debut at Norwich City in the Premier League a week tomorrow.
Debuchy was a player Newcastle tried and failed to sign in August, as was central defender Douglas. Reports in Holland this week suggest Twente are now prepared to sell Brazil-born Douglas, like Debuchy for less than in the summer.
One of the barriers to signing Douglas was the huge fees his representatives were entitled to if he left for over 10m (£8.2m). After failing to get Douglas to drop his demands, Twente are prepared to sell for a fee small enough to stop the clause being activated.
Reading and Inter Milan were also linked with the 24-year-old in August, so Newcastle may not be in a position to bide their time.
Ba’s departure will see Papiss Cissé revert to his preferred position at centre-forward. What role Ba’s replacement fills is unclear even to the manager, but he must be a goalscorer.
“There are a couple of options for me, (including) one who plays on the side which would push (Yohan) Cabaye forward to play in a loose No.10 role,” Pardew said. “It is a role he’s done very well for us in the past.
“If we find a striker or a wide player he needs to be a recognised goalscorer. There are a couple of strikers/wide players and a couple of strikers we think would link up well with Papiss.”
Marseille’s Loïc Rémy fits the “striker/wide player” tag, while another target, St Etienne’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, plays as a lone striker. Although West Bromwich Albion’s Peter Odemwingie is comfortable wide, the 31-year-old’s age means he is not being considered.
Although Pardew admits the proposition of joining Newcastle has changed since the summer, he does not think their pulling power has been diminished by poor league form.
“I saw (Debuchy) on Wednesday night and it was difficult to explain to him the situation we’re in,” he said. “In the summer he probably thought we were going to be a top-eight side. He understands we’ve had some unusual conditions this year and if we can get our best team out there, there’s no doubt we’ve got a great side. I don’t really think that (selling the club) is a problem. The problem you’ve got is getting a striker in this window, it’s not easy.”