Alan Pardew arrived in Portugal last night with his pre-season plans torn apart by the row over Papiss Cisse’s refusal to wear a Wonga-branded shirt.
Less than 24 hours before it emerged the Senegalese would not travel to Portugal for a week of high intensity training and two friendly games, the Newcastle manager enthusiastically spoke of looking forward to having all his key players working together at their Braga base without exception. Pardew wanted to use the next seven days to bring those players who had returned late for pre-season training – including Cisse – up to the same fitness levels as the rest of the squad.
But the manager now faces playing two matches without his main striker and, of course, any new signings, plus he will have to deal with the fall-out of yesterday’s development. After the match with Motherwell on Tuesday evening, when speaking to The Journal , Pardew gave no indication whatsoever that he even suspected Cisse would not fly to Braga.
He said: “We are all going to Portugal. All the first-team is back so the strongest squad will be there.
“The (other) lads are a good way ahead of them. The internationals will need to catch up.
“We want to get the internationals up to the level of the other guys who have shown that at this early stage they are on it. That was important when you look back to the back end of last season.”
Cisse’s position at Newcastle now looks in serious doubt. It emerged yesterday afternoon that a compromise had not been reached between Newcastle and the player’s advisors with regards to him not wearing anything with the Wonga name because of the practising Muslim’s religious beliefs.
He is contracted to wear anything with the loan company’s name emblazoned on it even when travelling, as are all Newcastle players.
The PFA got involved in an attempt to resolve the issue and Cisse had offered to wear an unbranded shirt or one that advertises a charity. But the situation has, if anything, worsened and grown more complicated.
There is some understandable cynicism among some Newcastle supporters that Cisse and his advisors are merely attempting to engineer a move away from the club.
And this is the main reason – rather than any ethical grounds – why Wonga has become an issue.
Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala, long-time admirers of the 28-year-old, will be monitoring the situation, not that Pardew wants to see the player leave.
This the last thing Pardew needed. He had been delighted with how pre-season had gone, especially with the what his players performed in the 4-2 win at Motherwell, so this comes as a blow to the United manager.
The rest of Newcastle’s first-team will continue their rigorous pre-season training programme from today. They face local side Rio Ave on Saturday evening at the Estadio Do Rio Ave, before taking on Pacos de Ferreira on Tuesday at the Estadio Da Mata Real.