Newcastle United are ready to re-open contract talks with Hatem Ben Arfa as they bid to tie down the mercurial forward to a long-term deal.
United first approached Ben Arfa’s representatives back in July, but the France international wanted to concentrate on his football and getting back to full fitness after an injury-plagued season.
Although the player and his representatives were keen to stress that he remains committed to the black-and-white cause, there was no urgency to re-negotiate a deal that does not expire until June 2015.
Now Newcastle are ready to make Ben Arfa’s contract one of their post-transfer window priorities – if the player and his camp want to get round the table to thrash out a deal.
The star has set his sights on a return to the France squad and after a summer of rehabilitation he has returned to Newcastle in the best shape of his Premier League career. He remains, however, a maverick and United know that he is relaxed about signing a new contract.
Mike Ashley was understood to have taken a personal interest in trying to tie Ben Arfa down to a longer-term deal and still regards him as one of the biggest successes of the transfer policy that was put into place when Graham Carr was appointed as chief scout.
There is little doubt that Ben Arfa appreciates the support of the Newcastle fans either – although his single-mindedness and maverick tendencies make him notoriously difficult to read.
United are expected to make contact with Ben Arfa’s lawyers in the coming weeks to see if they want to re-start contract talks. Meanwhile, Newcastle fans are expected to flock to Steve Harper’s testimonial tomorrow – as Kevin Nolan was added to the all-star United squad list.
He will join Paolo Di Canio, Joey Barton and Alan Shearer as the most notable names with North East links, while the AC Milan Glorie squad boasts some of the greatest names in world football.
So far nearly 40,000 tickets have been sold but the club are hoping to get closer to 50,000 – with the Newcastle United Foundation, the Great North Children’s Hospital and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation set to benefit from ticket sales.
Harper issued his own appeal to Newcastle supporters on Twitter, writing: “Rangers sold 30k prior to the game & had 18k walk-ups on the night to sell-out at 48,000.
“We can’t let them beat us can we?”
As United look forward to Saturday’s game against Aston Villa there was an unwelcome reminder of the problems encountered over the summer when Bafetimbi Gomis documented the problems that sunk his move to Newcastle.
Gomis admits that he was unwilling to take a wage cut to join Newcastle despite a recommendation from France manager Didier Deschamps to join the Magpies.
The Journal understands this was the main reason for the deal collapsing, as United did not want to break their wage structure for the striker.
“I had a talk with Newcastle’s coach and we found an agreement,” Gomis told a French TV station.
“Then, there were talks with Lyon, there was a first offer – which was refused and then a second one, which was accepted.
“Newcastle then came back to me and asked me to make an effort on wages – but I never asked anything as it was my club which wanted to transfer me, so the effort had to be made by Newcastle or Lyon.”
His form will be monitored by Newcastle and he remains a viable target in January.
The likelihood is his valuation will have dropped too, with the player unwilling to sign a new contract.
“Now I think after what has been said and done, it is not conceivable to talk about any prolongation,” Gomis said.