NEWCASTLE United return from their summer break this morning with the future of José Enríque no nearer to being resolved than when they last saw the Spaniard.
So, although the Magpies have no interest in Manchester City’s Wayne Bridge, they are continuing their search for a new left-back.
Enríque is one of two Magpies players to have resisted attempts to extend contracts due to expire in 2012. Joey Barton refused the extensions put to him at the end of last season, unhappy that Newcastle were not prepared to give him a longer deal because of his age – he is 28.
That frustrated Newcastle, who thought they had all but agreed a deal before Andy Carroll’s £30m January move to Liverpool seemed to alter the equation.
All offers have now been removed, and Barton has made it clear he intends to see out his deal, and walk away for free next summer.
Moving on a “Bosman” will allow the Merseysider to claim a bigger signing-on fee from his new club because no transfer fee is involved.
Yesterday Barton was linked with a move to Championship side West Ham United, which he quickly laughed down. “Why would I drop down a league when I can more than hold my own in the Premiership?” he said, via his Twitter account.
“What benefit would it give me? None. I play this game to play against the best week in, week out.”
While Barton has been characteristically open about his intentions, Enríque has been more cagey. He has pointedly refused to say publicly he definitely wants to stay or go, causing most to conclude the latter is true. Enríque and Barton were both barred by the club from talking to the Press in the closing months of last season.
The former Spain Under-21 international has taken a similarly evasive stance with his employers, preferring delaying tactics to an outright rejection of any offer.
Manager Alan Pardew promised at the end of last season he would offer the 25-year-old extremely good terms to stay, but has been unable to get his representatives around the table.
The Magpies tried to engage them midway through last season but were told he they did not want to enter negotiations until the team’s Premier League status for 2011-12 was confirmed. Neither that, nor the end of the season, has brought his camp to the table.
Bridge has been mooted as an alternative but quite apart from his extortionate wages, his age (30) makes any deal a no-goer, even on loan as Pardew seeks to create a younger, more mobile side.
It stopped Barton getting the deal he wanted, and encouraged Newcastle to cash in on captain and top-scorer Kevin Nolan, surprisingly sold to West Ham in May.
Newcastle are hoping to complete the protracted signing of Swansea City’s Neil Taylor, but even if they do, he is seen as a back-up.
Although the British transfer window kicked into gear surprisingly early, the left-back merry-go-round is yet to get started. City could be the team to do it.
They are believed to have talked to Arsenal’s Gäel Clichy over a £7m move. The Frenchman was also a Liverpool target, and having lost a number of potential signings this summer through prevarication, Clichy’s transfer could encourage them to move quickly for Enríque, understood to be Arsenal’s preferred replacement.
Newcastle also have an interest in Mevlüt Erdniç, but the Turkish striker seems more interested in a move to Galatasaray. Paris-Saint Germain have reportedly offered Erdinç as a makeweight for Lille’s Eden Hazard but aware of Fatih Terim’s interest, Erdinç appears to have his sights on a move elsewhere.