OBAFEMI Martins has become the first player sold by Newcastle United since relegation after the unofficial transfer embargo at St James’s Park was finally lifted.
The Nigerian striker joined Bundesliga side Wolfsburg on the day it was announced that goalkeeper Fraser Forster will join Bristol Rovers on a month’s loan.
The news comes as a welcome sign that Newcastle have left their off-field paralysis with their final pre-season fixture taking place at Dundee United tomorrow.
Some fans will be sad to see one of their favourites leave Tyneside after three years but his departure will make a much-needed dent in an annual club wage bill estimated to be around £65m.
No fee has been disclosed but it is thought the German champions will make an initial down-payment in the region of £6.5m, rising to around £7.7m.
“I am delighted the transfer has gone through,” said Martins.
“The Bundesliga is one of the strongest leagues in the world and I am happy to be able to play for the defending Bundesliga champions. This is going to be a great challenge.”
Martins’ departure could open the floodgates at a club where until now transfers had effectively been banned. With United embroiled in a protracted takeover, outgoing owner Mike Ashley has been reluctant to sanction any transfers for fear of landing his successor with players he did not want, or relieving him of those he did.
It is the same thinking which has left United managerless since the final day of last season.
Agents of the Newcastle players had been told an embargo would be in place until the ownership was resolved, but August’s wages were due to be paid yesterday, and the club has an overdraft to service.
The coming week should show if Martins’ transfer is a one-off to keep the wolves at bay for another month, or if this is the overdue start of Newcastle’s summer sale.
Habib Beye handed in a transfer request yesterday, but Hull City manager Phil Brown is sceptical as to whether that will hasten the right-back’s departure.
The Tigers manager has declared an interest in Beye, but has no idea who to conduct transfer business with.
“It doesn’t really affect things,” he said after yesterday’s Asia Cup final. “It shows an intention for Habib Beye to get out of Newcastle.
“The transfer fee for Habib Beye is way above what we are prepared to go to.
“But the problem is who do you deal with at Newcastle – is it the chairman, is it a coach, is it an organiser?
“We are not sure where we are with the situation.”
Caretaker manager Chris Hughton was asked on Wednesday whose responsibility it was to approve outgoing transfers, but refused to comment.
When quizzed about his remit at Leyton Orient days earlier, he said it was purely to prepare the squad for the new season, and he had no input on transfers.
The transfer window closes on August 31, after which no permanent transfers can be made until 2010. Being in the Championship means Newcastle can make “emergency” loan signings at certain times when the window is closed and the interpretation of the word “emergency” is so laughably liberal as to be meaningless.
The deadline is more relevant in terms of selling their high-earning players to the major leagues.
With revenue expected to halve outside of the top flight, Newcastle will need to sell as many of the estimated six remaining players earning more than £50,000 a week as possible.
Reserve goalkeeper Forster does not fall into that category, and the 21-year-old’s move to the Memorial Ground is simply to further his footballing education.
All seven first-team appearances made by the Hexham-born player to date came in a loan spell at Stockport County last season.