NEWCASTLE United have opened negotiations on Ajax’s Holland international Vurnon Anita – but their interest does not spell the end for Cheick Tioté’s St James’ Park career.
The Journal understands that United have registered their interest in Anita, although a senior Magpies source claimed discussions are still at a “preliminary” stage, and reports claiming a deal is close to completion have jumped the gun.
They have made an enquiry about the player’s value and availability and intend to contact the Dutch giants again this week, but a fee is yet to be formally agreed for the defender, who can also play in the holding midfield role.
Anita is understood to be keen on a switch to Tyneside, where he would primarily fill the left-back role rather than Tioté’s central midfield slot.
Although the chances of a deal appear encouraging, United have already illustrated that they will walk away from a transfer if they don’t feel they are getting value for money.
And the Magpies want to tie up a deal for less than the £7million quoted over the weekend for a player they have a long-standing interest in.
At 23 and as part of the Dutch international set-up, he ticks plenty of the boxes that were identified by Newcastle in their extensive planning meetings for this summer.
Crucially, he also has one of the major assets that United are looking for in their summer shopping – versatility.
He filled the midfield role for Ajax on several occasions last season and that has led some to speculate that Newcastle are ready to cash in on Tioté, who has attracted the interest of Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham.
Newcastle have made it clear that they would listen to offers in the region of £20million for the Ivorian, but a source close to the player told The Journal that there has been no contact with either the club or his representatives so far this summer.
And Tioté would not welcome interest either, having told his advisers that he wants to remain at Newcastle as part of Alan Pardew’s plans for an assault on four fronts next term.
Tioté’s French-speaking agent was in contact with Newcastle at the beginning of last week but the player’s future was not at the forefront of discussions.
It appears that Anita is being looked at to fill the left-back slot that proved troublesome for United last year.
Although Newcastle have Davide Santon in that role, concerns have been expressed about his progress by key figures at St James’ Park.
He improved markedly towards the end of the season but United are contemplating moving the right-footed Italy under-21 international to right-back next season, to see if it tightens up his defensive work.
AS Roma, who have benefited from a massive cash injection courtesy of new American owners, were linked with a move for the defender earlier this month.
However, Newcastle are not looking to sell Santon at this stage.
Meanwhile, United hope to reach a resolution on the long-running Danny Simpson saga over the next fortnight.
The right-back returns from a holiday in the United States this week with speculation continuing to swirl around a player who has been made available for transfer after failing to agree a new contract.
Simpson has turned down a new offer that would see him bumped up to around £25,000-a-week, but has told friends he wants to stay at United.
However, his availability has alerted both Fulham and Queens Park Rangers, who would expect to land him for around £2million.
United have contingency plans in place and are interested in Crystal Palace’s Nathaniel Clyne and France international defender Mathieu Debuchy, who will be watched by chief scout Graham Carr at the Euros.
Writing in a national newspaper column yesterday, Pardew dropped another heavy hint about Newcastle’s interest in Debuchy.
He wrote: “Just about every Premier League club will have scouts in Poland and Ukraine.
“From Newcastle’s perspective there are obviously players we know very well; there is one in particular I’m keen to look at.
“The worry is that if they do too well the agents and the player are suddenly in a stronger position and the cost goes up. As a manager you hope they do OK – but not too well.”