Leon Best and Fraser Forster to depart NUFC

NEWCASTLE United hope to clear the decks for some new faces by completing the sales of Leon Best and Fraser Forster this week.

Leon Best in action
Leon Best in action

NEWCASTLE United hope to clear the decks for some new faces by completing the sales of Leon Best and Fraser Forster this week.

The long-running saga of Forster’s proposed £2m move to Celtic appears to be nearing a conclusion, while Blackburn Rovers, Southampton and Norwich City are interested in Best.

With opening bids for Lille’s Mathieu Debuchy, Twente striker Luuk de Jong and Vurnon Anita of Ajax all rejected, the only addition to Newcastle’s squad so far this summer has been 22-year-old midfielder Romain Amalfitano. There were, though, encouraging noises from the Netherlands yesterday about the latter two targets.

Although weekend reports suggested a £5m bid for de Jong’s club-mate Douglas has been accepted, The Journal understands negotiations to land the Brazilian-born centre-back are still some way off completion.

Newcastle released 11 players at the end of the season, with Danny Guthrie last week joining newly-promoted Reading, but would also like to move on Best, Forster and Nile Ranger to make more space for new signings and bank some cash for players who do not have a St James’ Park future.

Twelve months ago Hexham-born Forster was being considered as a first-choice goalkeeper, but his future now lies elsewhere.

Manager Alan Pardew made great play of the fact he would be assessing Forster, Tim Krul and Steve Harper before choosing his No.1 for the new campaign. Dutchman Krul got the nod and responded with an impressive season.

Forster was sent to Parkhead for a second season-long loan. The clubs had always hoped the deal would become permanent, but negotiations with the England Under-21 international, none of whose 143 first-team appearances have been for Newcastle, have not proved straightforward.

Fraser Forster during a training session

Celtic were thwarted in a deadline-day attempt to sign Best in January, the writing on the wall for a striker given his Premier League chance by Pardew. The 25-year-old played twice in the next week,

but not since due to injury. Best found himself pushed down the pecking order by the arrival of Senegalese strikers Demba Ba and Papiss Cissé last season.

He did, though, make 16 Premier League starts last term, scoring four goals. Pardew values his work ethic, but trying to sign de Jong while releasing the even more industrious Peter Løvenkrands, is an indication he is trying to increase the quality in Newcastle’s forward line.

Relegated Blackburn have reportedly bid £3m after former Middlesbrough striker Yakubu’s move to China was completed. Newcastle are interested in David “Junior” Hoilett but as the Canadian’s Rovers contract expired last season, a deal for him would be entirely separate to one for Best.

Norwich have also been credited with an interest. New manager Chris Hughton brought Best to Tyneside for under £2m, though seemed not to trust the Republic of Ireland international once top-flight promotion was secured. Pardew gave Best his Premier League debut, and he marked his first start with a St James’ hat-trick against West Ham United.

The 25-year-old began his career at Southampton, albeit that like Forster he spent more time on loan than at his parent club.

The Saints having swapped divisions with Blackburn, Best will no doubt be hoping their or Norwich’s reported interest becomes more concrete.

Ranger’s departure will be somewhat harder to secure. The 21-year-old has four years left on his contract and a string of off-field misdemeanours do not have so much as a Premier League goal to gloss over them. Championship Sheffield Wednesday are interested but the Magpies may find themselves subsidising a move.

De Jong’s agent Louis Laros has denied reports in Germany the highly-rated striker has signed for Borussia Mönchengladbach.

“Luuk is still a Twente player,” he stressed. “If the right club comes along then he will happily make the move.

“The club doesn’t need to be a top club, but a good club in a big league where Luuk can play regularly and develop as a player.”

The versatile Anita has also offered United encouragement, saying: “Newcastle are a beautiful club. I’m open to anything. We’ll see what happens, but there’s nothing wrong with listening to Ajax and what interested clubs have to say.

“I will seriously consider anything that comes up. Does it matter to me that Newcastle are not in the Champions League? No.”

Newcastle are expected to tie up a deal for Australian defender Curtis Good, who impressed on trial last season.But is likely to be development set-up to begin with.

Journalists

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