NEWCASTLE United will have to increase their offer for Adrian Mariappa if he is not to become the second Championship centre-back priced out of a move to St James' Park this month.
The Magpies have turned to Mariappa after missing out on their top defensive target, West Ham United’s James Tomkins.
The 22-year-old centre-back signed a five-year contract extension at Upton Park after Newcastle failed to meet the London club’s demands.
Newcastle’s offer for Mariappa is thought to be in the region of £2m, but sources in the south describe it as “well short” of the Hornets’ valuation, and it was dismissed out of hand.
United will be reluctant to spend over the odds on 25-year-old Mariappa – a veteran of 204 league appearances, but only 19 in the Premier League. Manager Alan Pardew made it clear at the weekend he is seeking cover for Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson, the club’s only fit specialist centre-backs, rather than a replacement for Mariappa’s former defensive partner Williamson.
The Magpies have already spent £7.5m on Senegal international Papiss Demba Cissé, a fee which could rise to around £9m. Regardless, it is the biggest transfer fee owner Mike Ashley has authorised since Kevin Keegan’s second spell as manager.
Pardew is in Tenerife until tomorrow at a warm weather training camp, but Newcastle were thought to be keen to push through a deal as quickly as possible.
The 5ft 11in central defender has 18 months remaining on his Vicarage Road contract.
France youth international Anthony Knockaert is the latest player to claim the Magpies have shown an interest in him, and the 20-year-old Guingamp player says he is “flattered” by it.
Before buying Cissé from Freiburg, Pardew made it clear his club would be open to any deal they felt would offer value for money, with Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson claiming they rejected an offer for prodigiously talented but already notorious teenage attacker Ravel Morrison.
Knockaert, who can play as a striker or winger, has been linked with Newcastle for some time.
“They are in touch with my agent,” he said. “Now, I take care of my own work and nothing else. My agent does not put all that in my mind so I can continue to work in the best way.
“I do my job, many young people take it too seriously.
“Sure it’s flattering. But I will not give up until one day I am at the highest level. But now I work for the team.”
Hatem Ben Arfa has been voted the player of the FA Cup’s third round in a vote on the Football Association’s official website.
Ben Arfa claimed 43% of the 4,000 votes for his goalscoring performance in Newcastle’s 2-1 win over Blackburn Rovers.
The France international started in his usual position in the hole, but was switched to the right wing in the second half. From there he scored a stunning individual goal, only his third for the club. He has played on the right in both Newcastle’s subsequent games having never appeared there before for Pardew, and looks to be establishing himself as the preferred choice to summer signing Gabriel Obertan, short of form and fitness.
Ben Arfa’s prize includes an invite to this year’s final. With a fourth-round tie at Championship Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, he will still hope to get there as a player.
Meanwhile, television has had its wicked way with Newcastle’s fixture list, with two March games being switched for the benefit of broadcasters.
The Tyne-Wear derby will now kick off at noon on March 4, and will be shown live on ESPN. The trip to West Bromwich Albion has also been moved. It is now due to be played at 4pm on March 25, and shown on Sky Sports.