Newcastle United are considering their next move with mercurial midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa after failing to receive any enquiry despite circulating his name all summer.
United have made it clear to clubs in France and England they would listen to offers for Ben Arfa but he is back in the North East now – and has given boss Alan Pardew a serious pre-season headache.
Ben Arfa has been available for a cut-price fee and Newcastle would have listened to all reasonable offers, but they have struggled to generate any interest.
With the player in no rush to jeopardise a considerable contract by seeking his own way out, Pardew must now find a way of integrating the forward into a squad in which a considerable number of the players believe he has become a negative influence. He had a series of bust-ups with the United boss towards the end of the campaign.
Pardew will hold talks with the player this week but he looks set to lose his number ten squad number to Siem de Jong in a week when Newcastle’s pre-season preparation will crank up a gear.
The return of the rest of the non-World Cup playing squad to Benton for pre-season will kick off a busy week, with United certain to sell Mathieu Debuchy to Arsenal in the next few days, sign a replacement and make further additions to their threadbare squad.
The bullish noises from Debuchy after France’s exit – along with the hardly subtle hints dropped on social media – have helped set the scene for a £10million move to be completed in the early part of the week.
There has already been contact between the Gunners and Newcastle and the player himself, although the Magpies want to have a replacement as good as lined up before the move goes through.
United want £12million for the player but the negotiations may see a fee of around £8million paid up front with further fees built into the deal depending on Arsenal’s progress in the Champions League and Debuchy’s own performances.
Newcastle will reinvest that amount in trying to sign a replacement, with Daryl Janmaart, Ricardo van Rhijn and Serge Aurier all being considered for the role.
The swift business of selling Debuchy is in stark contrast to that of Ben Arfa, who has returned to the club’s Benton training base for pre-season fitness tests after a summer when United had hoped a serious decision on his future would be taken out of their hands.
The forward is a cause celebre for Newcastle fans and possesses an extravagant talent which, when harnessed, is the match of anyone in the Premier League.
However, there has been a slow erosion of trust between him, Pardew and his team-mates in which all parties must share some blame.
One suggestion on the table is Newcastle try to use Ben Arfa’s contract situation to try and motivate him in the final year of his contract. Another is whether a loan move might make sense further into the summer – although Mike Ashley has categorically ruled out allowing him to leave on a free in a mirror of the situation which unfolded with Joey Barton in 2011.
It adds another dash of intrigue to a week which is likely to see plenty of action on Tyneside – although there will be no sign of Holland’s unlikely World Cup hero Krul in the North East for a while.
The Dutch goalkeeper was at the centre of one of the most amazing World Cup stories on Saturday night when Louis van Gaal brought him on in extra time for the quarter-final penalty shoot-out defeat of Costa Rica.
Newcastle Academy graduate Krul saved twice to help Holland through to the last four.
Krul said: “I watched them (Costa Rica) against Greece and studied them and I told the players I knew where they were going to shoot to make them a bit nervous. Maybe it worked.
“It happened before when I played against Frank Lampard – I told him I knew and I saved it. I just tried that again.”