Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino last night claimed Newcastle United had made a bid for his club captain Ross McCormack.
The controversial Italian businessman insisted he had turned down the offer, which if made would have been significantly less than the £8million asking price, and insisted his 27-year-old, the Championship’s top goalscorer in the last campaign, wanted to stay at Elland Road.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew is a known admirer of McCormack who, despite what Cellino says, does want to leave Leeds after the off-the-field turmoil of the past six months which led to the sacking of manager popular manager Brian McDermott – with whom he enjoyed a close relationship.
However, it is unlikely Newcastle owner Mike Ashley would sanction a move for this kind of player for such a high price as it goes against the club’s signing policy.
Cellino bullishly boasted he had rebuffed Newcastle’s first move for his club’s prize asset.
He said: “Newcastle made an offer for McCormack and I said no.
“He is happy to stay here and that made me proud.”
Cellino is known for making wild statements so his word should not be taken as read.
However, if the club had moved for the former Rangers, Motherwell and Cardiff City man, it shows they are ready to embark on serious player recruitment.
Pardew needs at least two strikers, plus another five players, before the season begins.
While the club have been active in terms of trying to get deals done, the supporters will feel a whole lot better when that first transfer is secured.
Jack Colback is believed to have agreed a five-year deal, but that will not be confirmed until his contract with Sunderland runs out at the end of this month. McCormack would be an interesting signing and something of a gamble because of his lack of top-light experience.
However, he is British and Pardew is determined to bring that kind of player to the Magpies.
One who looks likely to move out is Hatem Ben Arfa, who ended last season as little more than a fringe player.
Former St James’ Park hero Yohan Cabaye yesterday admitted he didn’t understand why his fellow Frenchman had been used so sparingly and hinted his old friend should quit Tyneside for the good of his career.
Cabaye said: “For me, Hatem remains an extraordinary player with enormous quality.
“He’s one of the highest quality players I’ve played with.
“He will bounce back with a new club.
“If he comes back home, it will be good for French football.”