Frenchman could find exit door opens soon

CHARLES N’Zogbia’s agent has been told his client will be part of the January sales at St James’s Park.

Charles N'Zogbia

CHARLES N'Zogbia's agent has been told his client will be part of the January sales at St James's Park.

Joe Kinnear is eager to bring “two or three” new players to Newcastle United during the transfer window but owner Mike Ashley has apparently told him he will have to sell members of the current Magpies squad to pay for them.

The interim manager suggested at the weekend that there will be a similar number of players departing Tyneside as arriving during the January transfer window.

He added that none of those he had asked executive director (football) Dennis Wise to sell were involved in the 0-0 draw against Chelsea but sources in France were last night claiming 22-year-old N’Zogbia (pictured above) has also been earmarked as expendable. He was a 76th-minute substitute for Jonás Gutiérrez at Stamford Bridge, a cameo role he has had to grow accustomed to in recent weeks.

Having been a regular starter under Kevin Keegan and Chris Hughton, the versatile Frenchman has only been named in one of the line-ups Kinnear has selected as the Magpies’ interim manager – his very first, at Everton in October.

Like many players capable of filling a number of different positions, N’Zogbia has in part been a victim of his adaptability, making his £5m-£7m market value greater than his actual worth to United.

Gutiérrez and the revitalised Damien Duff have been in good form on the wings, Nicky Butt, Joey Barton and Danny Guthrie have competed for the central roles and it has been said in the past that N’Zogbia is a reluctant left-back – the position most open to him while Jose Enrique continues to search for his best form. That hints at a wider problem, namely the question mark over N’Zogbia’s attitude. The Frenchman asked for a transfer last January – and again in the summer.

He was agitating for a move to London, citing homesickness, despite the fact he has never actually lived in the English capital. N’Zogbia was born in Harfleur, in Normandy, and his first club was nearby Le Havre, on the banks of the River Seine. With regular flights from Newcastle to Paris, his home is scarcely less accessible from Tyneside than it is from London.

There have been rumours of tension between N’Zogbia and senior members of the squad. These may or may not be true but a number made it known they wanted their team-mate to leave in mid-2006 after a bust-up with then-caretaker manager Nigel Pearson.

Having apparently wanted to join Arsenal or Tottenham Hotspur last summer, N’Zogbia now appears to have set his heart on a move back to Ligue 1.

Spurs, who denied any interest in him at the time, have anyway changed manager, and removed their director of football, since and although the Gunners have a sizeable French-speaking contingent, N’Zogbia is not the sort of player they most need to strengthen the

squad physically and mentally. N’Zogbia claimed at the weekend his agent was in regular contact with Paris Saint-Germain, though Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich are also reportedly interested.

Joining either of the German sides would make a mockery of N’Zogbia’s complaints about homesickness, but that is no reason to rule it out. Meanwhile, Shay Given has hailed Newcastle’s first point at Stamford Bridge in seven years as a reward for teamwork.

“We knew it was going to be tough and no one really gave us a chance before the game,” he said on Newcastle’s official website.

“But it was a great team effort and the draw was thoroughly deserved. We had to soak up a lot of pressure but held firm. The point is a massive lift. I felt the whole team really put a good shift in.”

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