DEMBA Ba insists he has been happy to do the legwork while compatriot Papiss Cissé has fired Newcastle United to the brink of Europe.
Liverpool’s FA Cup semi-final win over Everton means the Magpies need just four points to guarantee a place in next season’s Europa League.
With sixth place in the Premier League handed a European place because the FA Cup final will be contested by two teams (Liverpool and Chelsea) who will have qualified for Continental football by other means, it leaves fifth-placed Newcastle free to concentrate on securing a Champions League spot.
Even at Christmas it looked like pure fantasy, but Alan Pardew’s men are the form team in the race for fourth, thanks to 10 goals in nine games from Senegalese striker Cissé. Newcastle’s 16-goal top-scorer Ba has scored once in that time, and not at all since Pardew changed formation to move him onto the left.
In public at least, he has no complaints.
“I work in order to score goals but also so Papiss can score,” Ba reasoned. “The coach told me he would put me on the left. And for the team I thought, ‘Let’s do it’. Also, I know the qualities of Papiss as a finisher. It does not bother me at all.
“As a striker you like to be in the striking position but now the coach has made a decision. He has decided for Papiss to be there.
“I do what I have to do to balance the formation for the good of the team. If I can be in the finishing area I do everything to be there, if I cannot, we do the work for Papiss.
“I like to be up front but lately the coach has decided to play with three strikers (Hatem Ben Arfa is the other) and I do not mind playing on the side.
“If I score, that’s great, but if I don’t score there is someone else who does.”
Ba was a strong contender for the Premier League’s golden boot award at the turn of the year, but playing at the African Cup of Nations – where Senegal were surprisingly knocked out at the group stage – sapped his momentum.
While he was preparing for the tournament, Newcastle bought Cissé from Freiburg, for a £7.5m fee rising to £9m. Ba opened the scoring in Cissé’s debut, against Aston Villa in February, but the latter found the net 41 minutes later and has since taken the goalscoring burden from Ba.
Newcastle fans will hope Ba means what he says, with rumours of a move persisting all season.
The free transfer signing was linked with a number of clubs in January, when claims of a buy-out clause were fuelled by the likes of Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp and Ba’s former West Ham United co-chairman David Sullivan.
The Magpies have always refused to confirm or deny it.
Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain are thought to be suitors, but the French-born 26-year-old downplayed the prospect of a summer move.
“It’s always a dream for me to play one day at PSG, but I’m really happy where I am in Newcastle and the English league suits me perfectly,” he insisted.
“I always loved PSG. I saw them beat Marseille at Yohan Cabaye’s place (Lille) recently.
“But since I joined Newcastle, I have rediscovered the feeling I had when I was a young boy playing on the pitches at the bottom of the street”.
Chelsea continue to be linked with a £15m move for goalkeeper Tim Krul, not helped by Pardew’s weekend admission that Newcastle fans “know in certain circumstances we sell players.”
Newcastle are only out of the top four on goal difference from Tottenham, although if Chelsea were to win the Champions League but not finish in the first four, they and the top three would play in next season’s elite European tournament.