NEWCASTLE United have agreed an 800,000 loan deal for Marseille’s France international Hatem Ben Arfa.
And Magpies representatives will meet the French champions today hoping to finalise a move in time for the player to play in the Premier League opener at Old Trafford.
Newcastle have been tracking the 23-year-old creative midfielder all summer and the loan deal took a significant step towards fruition over the weekend with a loan fee of around £700,000 agreed in principle.
Although the Magpies have been maintaining their silence on the deal for Ben Arfa, Marseille president Jean-Claude Dassier confirmed after his side’s opening Ligue 1 game on Saturday night that negotiations between the two clubs were at an advanced stage.
Talking to a French TV station, he said there would be a further update on the Ben Arfa situation tomorrow or Wednesday with a move to Newcastle “probable”.
And Dassier revealed that more talks between the two clubs were planned for today.
The situation is complicated partly by Ben Arfa’s call-up for the France squad, which will make it more difficult for Newcastle to talk personal terms with the highly-promising left-footed midfielder.
It is understood that terms are yet to be agreed – and Ben Arfa’s agent Frederic Guerra told The Journal that negotiations were at such a state, it was “impossible” to comment.
Newcastle’s hand has been strengthened by the players apparent desire to come to the Premier League, despite interest from Hoffenheim, Benfica and a late bid by Russian side Rubin Kazan.
All were prepared to sign him on a permanent basis, but since it became clear that Roma were not to follow up their interest the player has had his heart set on a move to Newcastle.
Ben Arfa scored four goals in 34 games last year and made Marseille’s only goal after coming on as a substitute in their opening day defeat to Caen.
Of Tunisian descent, he is widely-regarded as one of France’s most promising young players but those expectations have hampered him during his time at Marseille, and his inconsistency has been a source of frustration for manager Didier Deschamps. After the game he said: “People speak as if I have left but I am still a Marseille player. If I have to leave I will remember the three league titles, the fans and a splendid city. I will leave with only good memories.”
Newcastle boss Chris Hughton remained tight-lipped on the player on Saturday – merely saying that until the player is actually signed it remains a “rumour”.
However, Newcastle sources yesterday confirmed the deal to The Journal.
Hughton may not have been drawn on Ben Arfa but he did admit that Newcastle would be severely stretched if they fail to to make at least a couple of more additions before the season starts.
He hinted that he may still be looking to strengthen his back four, despite the signing of Sol Campbell a fortnight ago. The former Arsenal veteran will not play at Manchester United as he works towards gaining full fitness.
“I think we would be stretched if nobody was to come in before the end of the month,” Hughton admitted.
“At the moment, we must remember that, in terms of the defence, we have Danny Simpson who’ll be missing for seven or eight games and Steven Taylor who will be out for even longer. That’s two of our biggest players missing.
“I think we would be stretched if we don’t add. That doesn’t mean that we can’t get through, and it doesn’t mean that if we’re fortunate with injuries, we couldn’t cope. But we could be stretched and we’re aware of that.
“It’s about doing the right deal. We’re having a lot of players offered to us on a daily basis. There are players being offered all the time – some you know better than others, some you don’t know at all.
“That’s what this market is like; that’s what the transfer window does.”