Newcastle United are expected to offer €5m (£4m) for the Anderlecht playmaker Moubarak Boussoufa on Monday, according to reported remarks from senior Anderlecht officials in Brussels yesterday. Skilful and agile, if physically slight, Boussoufa is a 23 year-old Moroccan international who was on Chelsea's books as a teenager.
Newcastle, however, will find rivals in Atletico Madrid and Lens and there is the added difficulty of Boussoufa's apparent desire to stay in Brussels for at least another season. "I'm negotiating a contract until 2012," Boussoufa told a Belgian newspaper this week, "and it might be the best thing for me to stay one or two more years with Anderlecht."
Born in Amsterdam, Boussoufa joined Ajax aged 12 but moved to Chelsea in 2001. This was pre-Abramovich and Boussoufa left after three years once the Russian had come and began to spend money on recruitment. Realising his limited chances, Boussoufa joined Ghent, then Anderlecht after being voted Belgian player of the year in 2006.
Were the transfer to be completed, Boussoufa would be a natural replacement for Emre Belozoglu, who is not expected to remain at St James' Park beyond the summer. Like Emre, Boussoufa is predominantly left-footed and another left- sided Newcastle midfielder with an uncertain future is Charles N'Zogbia. Manager Kevin Keegan said yesterday that N'Zogbia needs to integrate himself more at the club if he is to stay.
"When I first came in there were eight days left of the transfer window," Keegan said. "Charles and his agent wanted to move him out of here and I wouldn't allow that. Having said that, I said that if he did his best until the end of the season and felt the same way, if he still wanted to go, I would let him. But it would be on our terms. He's got three years left here.
"I've had a chat with him today, his training in the last week has been the best since I've been here. If he can learn to be a team player, with his individual skill, he will be a hell of an asset for any club and I would like that club to be Newcastle United."