NEWCASTLE United face the prospect of losing their star strikers for the start of their European campaign next season – after Senegal insisted they would pick Demba Ba and Papiss Demba Cissé for the Olympic football tournament.
Yesterday’s draw for the London 2012 football competition has pitted Team GB in the same group as Senegal, who are considering Newcastle’s forwards as potential over-age players for the competition.
That would be problematic for United, who face the prospect of a qualifying tie for either the Europa League or Champions League when the Olympic tournament takes place from July 25 to August 11.
That clashes with the second round of qualification for the Champions League group stages, which Newcastle would be involved in if they finished either third or fourth. It also coincides with the second round of qualification for the Europa League.
Although United have a good relationship with the Senegal FA, who have agreed to leave Demba Ba out of friendlies in the past to protect a long-standing knee condition, there was a suggestion from the African nation that they would press for both to be included.
Senegal Football President Augustien Senghor said: “They are patriotic guys and if the nation needs them, they will come. We need top scorers like Papiss Cissé.
“When we have these kind of players it would be a mistake to leave them at home.
“For the fans of the first match, it will be a good thing if they play against Team GB. It will create a focus for a lot of people around this match.”
If selected, United would be powerless to prevent the pair from joining up with their country.
Fifa issued a strict mandate last week asserting that clubs would be required to release players for the tournament.
Although the wording of the statement suggested it applied only to under-23 players, an FA spokesman confirmed to The Journal that over-age players are covered by the same mandate. In effect though, the decision will be down to Cissé (pictured left) and Ba. Before the last Olympic tournament Barcelona won a Court of Arbitration verdict which blocked Argentina from insisting Lionel Messi would be called up for the tournament.
However, the striker was keen to play and was eventually released.
It is unclear whether either Cissé or Ba would want to play in the Olympics, but it is certainly something that will need to be factored into United’s already confused pre-season preparations.
Newcastle are currently seeking clarification from the Premier League and FA about when they would be required to enter either the Europa League or Champions League based on finishing league positions.
The likelihood that they will be playing in Europe means that they have already had to scrap plans to trek to America for a second successive season, and the club are currently looking at a more modest European training camp as an alternative.
Meanwhile, sources in Holland have indicated that United have made contact with FC Twente over Brazilian defender Douglas.
The club have been quoted a figure of around £5million for the defender, with Steve McClaren’s Dutch side set to enforce the option of a one-year contract extension to extract the maximum possible value from any summer switch.
Newcastle are not alone in their pursuit of the stopper, who is also on the radar of Tottenham and Arsenal.
CLASH OF DATES? Olympic Football tournament
July 26: Team GB v Senegal
July 29: Senegal v Uruguay
August 1: UAE v Senegal
July 19: Europa League Qualification round two, first leg
July 26: Europa League Qualification round two, second leg
August 2: Europa League Qualification round three, first leg
August 9: Europa League Qualification round three, second leg
July 24/5: Champions League Qualification round two, second leg
July 31/1: Champions League Qualification round three, first leg
August 7/8: Champions League Qualification round three, second leg