DARREN Bent is ready to return to the North East and secure a sensational move to Newcastle United this summer, The Journal can reveal.
The Aston Villa striker is understood to be “keen” on the idea of moving to the Magpies, who have made securing a striker their top summer priority – along with making central defensive reinforcements during the close season.
Any move for Bent would be a surprise turn of events, but the forward is certainly open to the move, which would see former Sunderland striker becoming one of the few players to swap the Stadium of Light for St James’ Park in recent years.
The odds offered on Newcastle signing Bent tumbled on Monday – and sources close to the striker have told The Journal that he is keen to make the move. Despite a record of nearly a goal every game since moving to Villa, Bent has fallen out of favour at Villa Park, and Villans boss Paul Lambert is keen to offload the striker – who is desperate for first-team football in the run-up to the next World Cup.
He feels that he would get that at Newcastle, especially under a manager with whom he has worked before. Bent flourished under Alan Pardew’s tutelage at Charlton, and the United boss is keen to add more English talent to his squad.
United would not comment on any interest in the striker, but the prospect of a return for Bent would cause ripples in the world of North East football – not least due to his Sunderland connections.
At 29 and with high wage demands, Bent would not – at first glance – appear to fit the United profile.
However, Newcastle made it clear over the last six months that they would be willing to be more flexible in their recruitment policy if they could find value in a deal.
There would certainly be scope for that in any deal with Villa this summer, with the Second City club willing to accept around £5million to remove Bent from their wage bill.
Bent is understood to earn around £80,000-a-week, and United – if they followed up their interest – would probably not stretch to that kind of long-term contract for a player pushing 30.
The striker may be willing to lower his wage demands to push the deal through, however, with the prospect of working with Pardew and the chance of a spot in any England squad that travels to the World Cup major incentives.
Much has been made of United’s supposed limitation of signing players under 25, but The Journal understands that value is the main criteria for Newcastle’s recruitment drive this summer.
They have been keeping tabs on free agents and are interested in defender Douglas as well as Reading’s Alex Pearce.
Bent is the latest link who would offer them a chance to get a player of international calibre at cut price.
And it is worth remembering that Pardew said at the end of last season that “experience” was the key to improvement.
He said: “They will all gain from the experience we have had this year, the extra pressure in terms of never really being able to get away from getting sucked in (to the relegation battle). At one point, after the Sunderland game, we were sucked in. So all of that will make those players stronger.
“But whatever players we bring in, somewhere along the line, (we need) experience.
“We have got a lot of young players with potential now, and we need a little bit of guidance around them to help them, particularly if Coloccini leaves.
“His position will be quite critical really. If there is a situation where he is not here next year (it is important) we replace that experience he has.
“We are losing Harps as well and that’s another source of experience. Shola too, so we might be losing two or three very big senior players.”