Newcastle United are heading for crunch talks in their pursuit of Bafetimbi Gomis over the weekend – as they brokered a resolution in their impasse with star striker Papiss Cisse.
After lengthy discussions with the club, Cisse has agreed to wear a Wonga-branded shirt and could feature in the squad to take on Blackpool over the weekend – the first notable success of the post-Derek Llambias boardroom regime at St James’ Park.
Although the saga was something of an unwanted distraction for manager Alan Pardew and the club, relations have remained amicable throughout and Newcastle utilised the close links they have developed with the local Muslim community to help persuade Cisse that a resolution could be reached which would not betray his religious convictions.
Sources at the club indicated that financial incentives were not offered to Cisse, who had maintained throughout that he did not want to leave St James’ Park.
Although the news eases some of the pressure on the club, there is still a desperate need to end the wait for a first senior signing of the summer, with Lyon striker Gomis and Aston Villa’s former Sunderland front man Darren Bent understood to be the two deals that United are working hard to complete.
Lyon chairman and owner Jean-Michel Aulas admitted yesterday that three clubs have tabled offers for Gomis, and The Journal understands that – so far – Newcastle are the only Premier League club to express an interest. They have received assurances from sources close to the player that he is interested in discussing the move, although Lyon are yet to formally respond to the offer tabled earlier in the week.
Aware of the need for progress on the recruitment front, Newcastle pressed Lyon again for an answer yesterday and, in a further development, The Journal understands that one of Gomis’ representatives was travelling to England in a bid to resolve his future.
Gomis has been identified by both Pardew and influential chief scout Graham Carr as the number one target of the close season, and the matter is now in the hands of director of football Joe Kinnear and club secretary Lee Charnley.
In news that should offer some reassurance to Newcastle fans who have openly doubted his credentials, The Journal understands that Kinnear has been working closely with Carr in his first two months at the club.
Carr’s guidance could be crucial as Kinnear gets back up to speed with the world of Premier League recruitment. The United talent- spotter has superb contacts in France and has been pushing the claims of the talented Gomis, who is also attracting interest from Turkey and Lyon’s Ligue 1 rivals Marseille.
Aulas has already confirmed United’s interest in the striker. He told a French TV station: “There is an interest of Newcastle for Gomis. We wait from them to come to us with an offer”.
Newcastle are also tracking Villa’s unwanted striker Bent, but there is a game of brinkmanship unfolding on that front. Villa’s valuation is out of kilter with the amount of interest in the England striker and United believe they can negotiate a better deal for the forward, who is desperate to move to St James’ Park.
United’s striker situation has become clearer over the last 24 hours with Shola Ameobi also declaring an interest in staying at Newcastle.
If United do land another striker, Pardew intends to let young forward Adam Campbell go out on loan. Motherwell are interested, while Hartlepool United and a clutch of League One clubs have made enquiries about the youngster.