For the second season running, Newcastle United have doubts over the future of their key midfielder.
But having – temporarily – seen off interest in Yohan Cabaye last August, the Magpies will hope to do the same with Cheick Tiote in this transfer window.
Given an extended break because of his involvement in the World Cup, Tiote missed the Magpies’ tour of New Zealand and has only played 60 minutes of football in pre-season – at Sheffield Wednesday on July 30.
A hamstring injury is the official reason for Tiote’s absence but the uncertainty around his future may also have contributed. He is not expected back before the visit of Crystal Palace in the last days of the transfer window.
Arsenal have been credited with an interest in the powerful midfielder, and yesterday it emerged Lokomotiv Moscow had a bid rejected earlier in the transfer window.
The Red-Greens were unable to persuade Tiote to join them 12 months ago.
Reports in Russia suggested the Ivorian’s main motivation was to keep playing Premier League football in a World Cup season, though that may be a generous reading of the situation.
Lokomotiv will be a more attractive proposition if they beat Apollon Limassol in a play-off to qualify for the Europa League. The second leg is on August 28.
Arsenal drew 0-0 at Besiktas in the first leg of their Champions League play-off and even if the Turks were to win the tie, they would go into the Europa League.
Last season Cabaye refused to play at the start of the season in an attempt to force through a move to Ashburton Grove.
But Newcastle stood firm on their valuation and when the Gunners refused to meet it, Cabaye returned to the fold and produced some excellent performances in the first half of last season. He joined Paris Saint-Germain in January for £19m.
Cabaye was Newcastle’s vice-captain then, an honour now shared by Tiote and summer signing Siem de Jong.
Newcastle are unlikely to take less than £10m for Tiote, and Lokomotiv’s offer is thought to have been well short of that. Whatever the criticisms during Mike Ashley time as Magpies chairman, United have rarely been accused of selling their prize assets on the cheap.
Indeed, the fact Joe Kinnear “only” got £19m for Cabaye was thought to be the main reason he lost his job as the club’s director of football.
Tiote is under contract for another three years having signed a new deal, to much fanfare, in February 2011. That was reward for an impressive first six months on Tyneside. It is one of the key principles of Ashley’s regime to tie playing and coaching staff to long-term contracts wherever possible.
If Newcastle do sell Tiote – and history suggests if their price is met, they will – they are thought to be considering Alex Song as an alternative. The Cameroon international joined Barcelona from Arsenal in 2012, but has failed to make an impact.
Song played for Alan Pardew at Charlton Athletic in 2007 on a half-season loan.
Meanwhile, Tim Krul and Daryl Janmaat have both been named in Guus Hiddink’s first squad of his latest spell as Netherlands coach. The pair were part of the squad which reached this summer’s World Cup semi-finals.
Hiddink has picked a 25-man squad for away matches against Italy and the Czech Republic.
The September 4 match is a friendly in Bari, but the game in Prague on September 9 is a European Championships qualifier.