Chelsea were tonight in negotiations with the representatives of Demba Ba over a move for the Senegalese striker, with the Newcastle United manager, Alan Pardew, admitting that he is powerless to keep him at St James' Park.
Interim Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez was coy about the club's move for the 27-year-old, who is needed as support for Fernando Torres, with Daniel Sturridge expected to move to Liverpool. The £7m buy-out clause in Ba's contract poses a major problem to Newcastle, who are desperate to keep the player as their struggle to build on last season continued with a 7-3 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday. "Of course [it's a problem], but Demba is really out of my hands and there's nothing I can do about it. What will be will be," Pardew said.
The move for Ba comes as Chelsea show the signs that Benitez is having a material affect on the team. An excellent 2-1 win against a fiercely competitive Everton side who had not lost at home since March, extends the Spaniard's winning run in domestic football to six games.
Frank Lampard's two goals also reinforced his desire to stay beyond this summer, when his contract expires. The 34-year-old said last night that he did not know what the new year would provide for him. "I just hope it brings for me playing in a winning team," he said.
"I keep trying to give my best, as I've always done when I'm here, and I'll continue to do so. I'm enjoying playing again. I was injured for a while. I know there is a lot of speculation and talk but, for me, the enjoyable bit is being out there."
The Chelsea fans sang "Sign him on" after Lampard's goals. "The fans have been amazing," Lampard said. "They are the club. From the minute I came here, I've said it many a time, they have been behind me. I've always got Chelsea in me for life because of what they have done for me since I've been here. They back the team here, they back all the players in every match. I can't thank them enough."
However, Benitez, who said that goalkeeper Petr Cech would undergo a scan on a thigh/groin injury which forced his withdrawal at half time, refused to offer Lampard any assurances.
"Lampard is under contract and showed his full commitment," he said. "He's a great player. My job is to keep him fit and if he can score more goals that will be great. He is a great player and a good pro who is doing extremely well for us. We try to get the best from him and at the end of the season who knows? I just want him fit, happy and scoring goals. He is under contract, doing well and that is the most important thing."
As regards the possibility of signing Ba, Benitez said: "We do not talk about our business in public. My job is to prepare the team for games and they will let me know. Ba plays for another team, so I do not like to talk about it."
Although Chelsea look like a side with the potential to challenge for the title, Benitez played down such talk: "We have a game in hand but we still have to win it. Our idea is to approach the competition thinking about one game at a time. We are not watching the table too much. We are just thinking about the next game and the next three points we will be trying to win. We will see where we are after some more games."