I love Demba Ba, in 18 months at Newcastle United he’s scored goals for fun for my team, but now, as he and his agents try to hawk him off to the highest bidder for the umpteenth time, I think that the time has now come for Demba to get his wish.
Ba arrived on Tyneside in the summer of 2011 and in that time has been nothing short of a sensation. Helping Newcastle romp to fifth place last season, Ba scored 16 goals before magnanimously moving to the wing allowing Papiss Cisse to hit the ground running. This season, in a struggling team, Ba has reverted back to his natural, centre-forward position and has picked up where he left off scoring 11 goals so far.
However, ever since Demba’s arrival, there has always been something that’s never felt quite right about the whole situation. Signing on a so-called “free transfer” from West Ham, Ba cost Newcastle an apparent £2m in agent and signing fees; so not quite a free transfer then. Looking back, Ba’s transfer history has always been, well, slightly dubious.
After an almighty fall out with Hoffenheim, Ba tried to force through a £7m move to Stoke before failing a medical due to a dodgy knee, infamously referred to as a “ticking time bomb” (© Tony Pulis). From there he moved to West Ham on three-year deal, for an undisclosed fee, on an apparent ‘pay-as-you-play’ deal; then following the Hammers relegation, Ba invoked a clause allowing him to leave for free and in turn joined Newcastle.
Six months into a three-year deal at St James’ and at the beginning of last season’s January transfer window, more eyebrows were raised when ‘Arry Rednapp announces that Ba has a £7m buy-out clause in his contract. With Pulis’ comments still ringing in a lot of managers ears though, none took the gamble. Once again in the summer of 2012, with the clause due to expire on 31st July, and after a goal-less second half of the season, again, no one took the plunge.
Time for us Newcastle fans to relax; now at least if someone did want our star striker they’d have to pay another Andy Carroll style monster fee……wrong. We’d soon discover that another clause would be in place this January, this time a fee of £7.5m would be the benchmark. It seems that although Newcastle got him for ‘free’, Ba’s apparent team of agents have laced his contact with numerous opportunities to get out and cash in should he put in the performances. So far Ba has upheld his end of the deal.
Frustratingly for Demba and his agents however, so far no one has triggered the clause and hit their jackpot button. By their reckoning Ba’s performances should by now have caused a cue of ‘big-clubs’ lining up to bring him in; but, it seems Tony Pulis has a lot to answer for. According to the media Newcastle have been trying to negotiate a new deal with the Senegal international, taking out these now notorious clauses in return for higher wages, it has been without success; Ba is reportedly after wages in the region of £90,000-a-week, at Newcastle? No chance. Long gone are the days of notorious Highwaymen like Michael Owen and Mark Viduka taking Newcastle for hundreds of grand a week in return for sweet FA.
Personally, given Mike Ashley’s frugalness, I think Newcastle were expecting him to go last January, hence the signing of Cisse. I also have suspicions over the contract talks themselves; this is just a theory, but I suspect that Newcastle would quite happily unload a player with a dodgy knee for £7m, making them a tidy £5m profit in 18 months. There is talk of Marseille’s Loic Remy coming in in January but given my cynical mind after years of following Newcastle, I would suggest that this move would be to replace Ba rather than play alongside, either way, he would be a welcome addition.
So with a couple of weeks to go before the transfer window opens, with Demba banging them in on the pitch and the apparent contract talks not working out, the man himself takes matters into his own hands. In a recent interview with Canal+, Ba made sure it was crystal clear that he was available in January and more or less issued a come and get me plea to Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger. No doubt masterminded by his agents, the incident was not unexpected and is sadly just another indictment of the modern day game as players and their agents attempt to ‘play the game’ in order to get the best deal.
While Ba’s performances have been exemplary on the pitch, it is clear that the main priority of both he, and his entourage, is money. For us Newcastle fans though, this is becoming mighty tedious and pretty damn boring. If he doesn’t go this time, how many more transfer windows do we have to put up with this constant buy-out clause nonsense?! The speculation is incessant and is nothing but an unwanted distraction for the club, the manager and of course the players.
So, and I say this with a heavy heart; I think its time to let him go. With or without Demba Ba, the world of Newcastle United will go on just as it always has. If he wants to go and fill his boots with all the cash the Premier League can throw at him then good riddance. With 18 months now left on his exiting contract, his value certainly isn’t going any higher than £7.5m.
With Ba gone it would free Cisse to revert to last season’s central role and for the team to be built around him. This move, along with the signing of a decent replacement before the end of the deadline, and, the procurement of the much needed reinforcements that never came in the summer, could just about see any potential disaster averted.
Given Chief Scout Graham Carr’s previous transfer triumphs, the quality of any potential signings does not really worry me, what does worry me however, is just how much Mike Ashley is prepared to part with to fund these potentially critical signings.