Juventus threat to United's Arda bid

NEWCASTLE United may miss out on Arda after Italian giants Juventus entered the race for the emerging Turkey midfielder.

Arda Turan

NEWCASTLE United may miss out on Arda after Italian giants Juventus entered the race for the emerging Turkey midfielder.

The Magpies had hoped to tie up a £9m deal for the Galatasaray winger before the European Championships but the Istanbul club’s tactic of stretching out a transfer until after the tournament in the hope of his value rocketing appears to have paid off.

Two goals in Austria and Switzerland and some impressive performances for the surprise semi-finalists have seen Arda’s asking price rise to £15m and with political pressure adding to their eagerness, it has not deterred “the Old Lady”.

Juve are reportedly ready to offer Galatasaray target Jonathan Zebina and midfielder Sergio Almiron in exchange after their fans rebelled against their initial choice of new signing.

The club had earmarked Internazionale’s Dejan Stankovic as their preferred attacking midfielder. With Jose Mourinho targeting Frank Lampard, the San Siro giants would almost certainly have been receptive to an offer but Juventus’ fans were definitely not. The club’s supporters have waged a campaign against the proposed signing which looks certain to bring about its collapse.

United’s revamped scouting network have shown themselves to have a good eye for a player but the club’s inability to close out deals before the start of Euro 2008 looks likely to be costly.

Arda, Holland’s Orlando Engelaar and Russia’s Andrei Arshavin have significantly enhanced their reputations – and with it, their price tags. All three have probably put themselves out of Newcastle’s price range and even if they can compete financially, they cannot offer European football as Juventus can. Engelaar is believed to be on the verge of a move to Champions League-bound Schalke 04.

The Magpies can perhaps take a measure of encouragement from previous comments attributed to the 21-year-old which suggest he is eager to leave Galatasaray but would prefer not to play in Serie A.

However, Juventus’ interest is sure to alert other big clubs in the highly unlikely event that they are not already well aware of Arda. “I would like to play in England or Spain,” he was quoted as saying. “Okan (Buruk), Emre and Arif Erdem are admired by everyone in Turkey for what they have done in Europe.”

Meanwhile, former Magpies chairman Freddie Shepherd is in talks about buying one of the clubs United are expected to play in pre-season. Shepherd is negotiating a £31m deal to buy administration-threatened Real Mallorca. “All I can say is we’re in discussions,” he said. “We live in Majorca most of the year – and they have always been our second team.”

Even at this late stage Newcastle are yet to confirm their pre-season fixtures, apart from the August 9 visit of Valencia. But they are expected to face Mallorca in the four-team Multi Media Sports Cup on August 3. If the game takes place, it could bring Newcastle face to face with their former chairman.

After selling his 28% stake in Newcastle last summer, Shepherd was rumoured to have explored the possibility of buying Leeds United. Talking to Mallorca represents a change of heart from December 2006.

“It’s my club – and I mean that not as a chairman – but in the way every fan says it’s his club,” he said of Newcastle back then.

“A lot of chairmen are passing through clubs but let me make one thing crystal clear. That’s not me. I could never do what Ken Bates or Peter Ridsdale did and join another club’s board if I ever left Newcastle. No chance whatsoever.

“It’s in my blood. You can get rid of the wife or the bank manager, but a Geordie can never get rid of Newcastle.”

The real estate company owned by Mallorca chairman Vicente Grande filed for insolvency last week. Grupo Drac, a subsidiary of which owns 93% of the club, are around 400m euros in debt.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer