NEWCASTLE United have enquired about the availability of England left-back Wayne Bridge as the Tynesiders’ hunt for defensive cover in time for the Wear-Tyne derby enters the eleventh hour.
United have pin-pointed Lyon’s Aly Cissokho, Holland left-back Erik Pieters and Bridge as priority targets but their unwillingness to pay over the odds for Jose Enrique’s replacement is slowing the momentum of a transfer that they hoped to have made in time for Saturday’s high noon clash at Sunderland.
Alan Pardew is also keen on adding battle-hardened Premier League quality, which prompted the tentative enquiry about Manchester City’s Bridge at the back end of last week. He would cost a seven-figure loan fee and command wages in the region of £80,000.
That hardly endears him to the United board, but the fees quoted for Cissokho, who wants to join United, and Pieters have so far proved prohibitive. Lyon want more than the £8million which Newcastle are not prepared to offer although interest is far from dead – and The Journal understands he was on the agenda when Derek Llambias visited the North East yesterday.
A spokesman for the Grandstand football agency, which represents Pieters, said Newcastle’s negotiations with PSV Eindhoven were no closer to fruition.
“It is not clear whether the two clubs have agreed a fee yet,” he said. “We are still waiting to hear from both sides.”
North West sources confirmed that Bridge is on Pardew’s radar but whether he can convince Llambias or owner Mike Ashley that a veteran defender is worth such a sizeable investment is another matter.
The 31-year-old made 18 appearances for West Ham last season but has absolutely no chance of featuring for Manchester City, who are looking to shift a number of high earners before the transfer window slams shut at the end of the month.
Newcastle have so far opted for players with a high resale value such as Yohan Cabaye in their recruitment drive, but after a weekend that illustrated how difficult it is to drop straight into the Premier League there is a case for adding a player like Bridge instead.
Although he has retired from international duty he has 36 caps for England and has played in plenty of big matches – making him an ideal candidate to step straight into the fire of the North East derby this weekend.
While the left-back berth is the priority United are also hopeful of tying up a move for a new striker – with Sochaux’s Mali international Modibo Maiga and Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner topping the shortlist. The Journal understands that after talks yesterday Maiga is prepared to rescind his threat to go on strike but is still deeply unhappy with his paymasters at Sochaux, having told them he is desperate to join Newcastle.
He is a long-term United target who was watched several times by Newcastle scouts last season – and his pace and goal-scoring ability means he fits the bill for a supplementary striker.
But Bendtner, while not the priority, is another compelling option being discussed by Newcastle yesterday.
He would cost £7million and has been offered to Premier League clubs including United over the last fortnight. There are reservations about his attitude but he does have a proven goal-scoring record in the top flight.
Meanwhile, reports north of the border have suggested Celtic are close to brokering an agreement to take Fraser Forster on loan until the end of the season.
The Parkhead club are desperate to land a goalkeeper and have made several enquiries about Forster, who was on the bench on Saturday for the visit of Arsenal.
Pardew faces a delicate balancing act with his goalkeepers, though, with long-serving Steve Harper understandably keen to get back in the first-team picture, but Tim Krul the current first choice following a pretty much faultless pre-season.