Dilemma for Newcastle as rivals seek Bellamy loan

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The Independent Football

Newcastle United today find themselves in a cleft stick every bit as sharp as Craig Bellamy's tongue.

Newcastle United today find themselves in a cleft stick every bit as sharp as Craig Bellamy's tongue.

With five days of the January transfer window remaining, do they stick to their desire to extract a fee of at least the £6m they paid Coventry four years ago and risk the Welsh striker spending the remaining four months of the season training with the reserves at a cost of £700,000 in wages alone? Or do they farm him out on loan and face the prospect of Bellamy returning to St James' Park, where he still enjoys considerable support, in opposition colours? The goal that Lomana LuaLua scored for Portsmouth against the side that still held his registration was instrumental in denying Newcastle a return to the Champions' League last year.

All the indications are that, however costly and unpalatable it may be to keep him on Tyneside, Newcastle's chairman, Freddy Shepherd, will not let Bellamy play for another Premiership club without a fee, despite interest from Portsmouth and possibly Blackburn Rovers.

However, as Shepherd admitted yesterday, interest in buying a man who has appeared on television twice to accuse his manager, Graeme Souness, of lying is not high. An early, hopeful bid to take Bellamy on loan came from Stoke, although yesterday Portsmouth's chairman, Milan Mandaric, made a more serious offer for the 25-year-old.

"Of course we are interested in Craig Bellamy," he said. "He is a great player and we have expressed our desire to take him on loan with a view to a future transfer but we are not there with it yet and Newcastle have not replied."

In Aiyegbeni Yakubu, who has interested Souness, Mandaric has a formidable card to play. Rumours that the Nigerian striker was on his way to St James' Park was one factor behind Bellamy's refusal to play out wide against Arsenal. Yakubu, who has 11 goals this season, has expressed his desire to leave Fratton Park but Portsmouth would want to wait until the summer before any transfer. "We are not moving anywhere with Yakubu and that makes me very happy," Mandaric said.

Blackburn would be a more obvious destination for Bellamy, not least because he knows and respects their manager, Mark Hughes, from his time with Wales. The club's chief executive, John Williams, said Hughes was looking to bring in a striker on loan prior to the transfer window.

However, his target is believed to be Deportivo La Coruña's Diego Tristan or John Carew of Besiktas, rather than Bellamy, whose wages of £40,000 a week might be considered prohibitively expensive at a club which already possesses one turbulent Welshman in Robbie Savage. Despite the cruciate ligament injury suffered by Florent Sinama-Pongolle in Tuesday's Carling Cup semi-final at Watford, Liverpool are not thought to be bidders.

Should Bellamy stay and Newcastle continue to struggle, Souness will come under pressure from some fans to play him - and that is something certain senior players at St James' Park could not stomach.

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