NEWCASTLE United defender Steven Taylor has emerged as a surprise target for Ligue 1 club Marseille, writes MARK DOUGLAS.
The Journal understands that Taylor has recently switched agents, and is now represented by Joey Barton’s agent Willie McKay – a man with high-level contacts in France.
And that change in management may explain why Marseille have been monitoring the central defender, who was called up for England earlier in the year.
Taylor is one of the players that Alan Pardew will no doubt be desperate to keep at St James’ Park next season, with the United boss desperate to retain a core of experienced Premier League players as he tries to put last season’s disappointment behind him.
He has lost Steve Harper and admits there are doubts over Shola Ameobi’s future, so keeping Taylor is a priority.
But Marseille’s interest is genuine, and they will be given glowing references by Barton – who has enjoyed a successful first season in France and looks set to complete a permanent move from QPR this close season.
Taylor will probably be unmoved by the interest from France, having expressed interest in staying at Newcastle.
His current contract runs until 2016 and he has aspirations of becoming a future United captain, as well as breaking into the England team with the Magpies.
But it is indicative of the kind of problems that Newcastle can expect this summer as they look to add to their squad while also protecting their prized assets.
United certainly need to improve defensively next year if they are to avoid another skirmish with relegation, and Taylor wants to see Fabricio Coloccini stay and continue to develop their partnership.
He says the squad are “desperate” to see the club’s skipper stay. “Colo and I have had a great partnership over the past few seasons,” said Taylor.
“We have a good understanding. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
“We seem to be able to mix it up. He’s very composed, and he’s not shy of a tackle as well.
“He’s been great a guy in training. You can learn a lot from him. I’ve got a fantastic partnership with him, and hopefully that will continue.”
As United ponder who may stay, the size of the task they face in trying to attract top target Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was laid bare by news of interest from Russian side Anzhi.
The 23-year-old striker is at the top of United’s wish-list, although club sources seem to acknowledge that he has other options and Newcastle have planned accordingly.
One of those opportunities is a lucrative one from Russia, with Samuel Eto’o having made contact with his agent to inform him of a proposed contract offer which would see him bank £6m a year – and a £9m signing on fee.
“Of course such a proposition makes me think about things,” Aubameyang told L’Equipe yesterday.
Newcastle’s long-standing interest in the player saw Mike Ashley journey to France to run the rule over him, but the number of suitors he now has makes it difficult to conclude a deal. Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg have been linked, along with AC Milan – who had him on their books as a teenager.
United can double his St Etienne wages, but without European football to offer, and with nothing like the resources of the mega-rich Russians, the chances of landing him would appear slim.
Newcastle are understood to have compiled a list of targets but will not put their plans into action until Alan Pardew’s return from holiday in the next fortnight. Few Premier League clubs will make moves in that time, with most of the decision-makers away on holiday.