Newcastle's clever scouting has them on sound footing
Club have long been making plans in case key players moved on
When Yohan Cabaye moved to St James' in the summer, eyebrows were raised. Cabaye, a France international, was not expected to leave Lilles, who had just completed a first League and Cup Double since 1954, for as little as £4.3m. Newcastle, however, had become aware of a clause in his contract that could be activated if an offer of €4m was tabled. The player was scouted for a season, the price was met and Cabaye, then 25, signed in June 2011. His market value is now at least double that.
Cabaye ticked a set of boxes that are becoming the hallmark of Newcastle signings; he was available at a competitive price, he was 25 or under and his value, after numerous scouting trips, was predicted to rise.
Newcastle proudly unveiled their financial figures for the year 2010-11 12 days ago. A club that was paying out £6.5m each year in interest on its debt five years ago recorded an operating loss before player trading of just £3.9m. (Profit after player trading was £32.6m, as a result of the sale of Andy Carroll.)
The age of austerity at St James' Park had begun long before football was given a collective jolt from the news that Rangers had gone into administration.
The signing of Demba Ba was last week voted the best of the season by the League Managers' Association. Ba moved to Newcastle for nothing in the summer and his value, after scoring 15 Premier League goals this season, would be around the £20m mark were it not for the clause in his own contract that allows a possible move at around £7m. Hatem Ben Arfa was taken on loan in the summer of 2010 before his move was made permanent, for around £5m. He was 23 and had been tracked by Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, his reputation perhaps discouraging those clubs from making a move before Newcastle did. Again, his value since returning from a double leg break, has risen.
Newcastle swooped for Sylvain Marveaux when a deal to Liverpool for the French winger fell through. The Under-21 international was available for nothing. His Newcastle career was beginning to flourish before a serious groin injury. Romain Amalfitano is a 22-year-old at Reims who will move to St James' in the summer as part of a concerted recruitment policy, led by the highly-regarded Graham Carr, who has recently watched the AZ Alkmaar midfielder Adam Maher.
That leads to Cheick Tioté and Tim Krul, two players now coveted by Chelsea, who have the kind of financial might that Liverpool showed in their pursuit of Carroll, eventually landing the forward for a figure of £35m, a figure which looks more impressive from the seller's perspective with each week.
Newcastle have been scouting replacements for Tioté since last summer. That is not to say there is a desire to sell, but the growing sense of reality inside the club means there will be a price at which he will be allowed to leave, as Derek Llambias, Newcastle's managing director, recently admitted.
"Tioté has been with us a year and a half," he said. "He is out there. People know he's a good player. He's proven in the Premier League, he's not picking up as many yellow cards, he's learning. How are we going to stop a big club from coming in for him? It'll be very hard. One thing in our favour is that we now have a very good side and that might encourage the player to stay but if someone knocks on the door and says they want this or that player, the reality may be that we have to trade. We'll be losing one or two names this summer, but that'll be regenerated back into the squad."
There is a growing acceptance of Newcastle's transfer policy in the North-east. Losing Krul or Tioté will be a blow, and there will be speculation about Ba in light of the clause that allows the Senegalese forward to leave for what constitutes a bargain.
But Newcastle's financial and league position are the healthiest they have been in a very long time, and the former will continue to determine what manager Alan Pardew has to work with.
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