NEWCASTLE United remain in the race to sign hotly-tipped Saint-Etienne striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this summer.
The Journal understands that Aubameyang’s representatives have contacted United in the last ten days to enquire about Newcastle’s interest in their client – a clear indication that he has not ruled out making a move to the North East in the close season.
United made two offers for the Gabon hotshot in the January window but saw their bids turned down because Saint-Etienne felt they could raise more money with a summer sale.
There have been a raft of links ever since, with Milan, Anzhi Makhachkala, Paris-Saint Germain and Tottenham all credited with an interest in the 23-year-old. The steady stream of stories might be viewed as an attempt to drive Aubameyang’s value up, but nothing has materialised yet – and talk of a £21.2m bid from big-spending Anzhi sounds unlikely for a player who has played virtually all of his football in the French top flight.
Newcastle do not expect to make any recruits until next month and are happier to play the long game with Aubameyang, whose representatives are actively touting him around this summer.
He has been described by insiders as “perfect” for Newcastle next season, with the club understood to want to move closer to the 4-3-3 formation which proved successful at the back end of the 2011-12 campaign.
Hatem Ben Arfa, who was injured for large chunks of last season, has been earmarked for a major role and Aubameyang would slot into that system as well as any of Newcastle’s targets.
Publicly, Aubameyang has stated his preference to move to a Champions League club this summer, but French sources have indicated he remains interested in moving to England – and would be happy to talk to United if an approach was made.
That places the ball firmly back in United’s court, although they are sourcing other options as they look to
broker a deal for a striker this summer. The links with Darren Bent are genuine and his addition would be a sensational twist for Newcastle – although Aubameyang would certainly be closer to the profile of player that has been recruited by United under Mike Ashley.
There is a resigned frustration at St James’ Park at the way their top players continue to be linked with moves away from Tyneside and they insist they have heard nothing from Roma, Paris-Saint Germain or Monaco – who are all credited with an interest in Yohan Cabaye.
But Roma’s emergence as potential suitors for the France midfielder make sense, especially with Rudi Garcia having been appointed boss of the Serie A side.
He is understood to have a big budget and, given his previous links with Cabaye as Lille boss, there is a link there that might threaten Newcastle’s hopes of keeping hold of him.
Meanwhile, United have moved to re-assure fans north of the border that they will field established stars in their friendly at St Mirren on July 30.
The club originally announced the game as part of their Under-21 summer programme but have clarified their intentions for the game, where tickets will cost £15.
Boss Alan Pardew said: “We thought the Hartlepool game worked well last year.
“It was a chance for us to ease people like Hatem, who had been involved in the European Championships, back into the fold and it was probably one of our best performances of pre-season.
“Sylvain Marveaux got a couple of goals and Shola Ameobi, Haris Vuckic and Gabriel Obertan all scored.
“By the time the St. Mirren game comes around I’ll be starting to formulate my team for the first league match of the season, and I see this friendly as an opportunity for some players to try and force their way into my thinking.
“So there’ll be a nice mixture for that one, similar to Hartlepool last year, because it’s a Scottish Premier League team we’re facing and we’re expecting a good game there.”