Papiss Cissé is ready to tell Newcastle that he wants a pay rise to stay at the club. The Senegalese forward's future on Tyneside has been cast into doubt, with the player letting officials at St James' Park know that he does not want to wear the strip next season with the sponsorship deal of Wonga on the front.
The Independent revealed in October last year that the £24m sponsorship deal with the payday lending company would cause problems for the Muslim players at the club.
Under Sharia law, a Muslim is not allowed to benefit from lending money or receiving money from someone. This means that earning interest is not allowed. Wonga's deal drew heavy criticism because of an interest rate that, when stretched over the course of a full year, would work out at 4,212 per cent.
Newcastle do not intend to deal with the problem until their players return to training at the start of next month. However, in a new twist, Cissé, who was linked with the Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala at the end of last month, is eager for talks to begin over an improved deal to stay.
Cissé moved to Newcastle in the January transfer window of 2012 and signed a five-and-a-half-year contract believed to be worth around £2m per year. The striker now feels his goalscoring record is such that he should be among the top-paid players at the club.
The 28-year-old moved from SC Freiburg for £10m and has scored 26 goals in the 18 months he has been a Newcastle player. After the transfer of Demba Ba to Chelsea for £7m during the last January transfer window, Cissé became Newcastle's main striking option and scored crucial goals against Stoke and Fulham to help keep the club in the Premier League. He also scored four goals in Newcastle's run to the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
His stance on not wearing a Wonga shirt on religious and ethical grounds is problematic for Newcastle, who are still weighing up their options concerning the situation. The former Tottenham forward Frédéric Kanouté was allowed to wear an unbranded shirt after he refused to wear the logo for the 888.com gambling website on religious grounds when he played for Seville.
Wonga is keen to avoid unwanted controversy and in efforts to placate Newcastle supporters unhappy with the sponsorship deal has removed the Sports Direct logo that was on top of the Gallowgate End stand and given St James' Park its original name back after an attempt to call the ground after owner Mike Ashley's sportswear chain.
Newcastle believe criticism of the deal is unfair, given that they were previously sponsored by Virgin Money and Premier League clubs have deals with financial organisations and betting companies have also featured on shirts in the past.
Wonga already has sponsorship deals with Blackpool in the Championship and Hearts in the Scottish Premier League, but its four-year agreement with Newcastle – the away shirt with Wonga on the front has already been released – has provoked the most controversy.
Newcastle have two other practising Muslims in their squad in Hatem Ben Arfa and Cheick Tioté, but so far neither of those players has expressed a desire not to wear the new shirt next season.
Club officials were delighted with the size of the deal with Wonga, which is substantially bigger than the previous sponsorship contract with Virgin Money. Part of the increased finance will go on squad development and may also be significant as Cissé seeks an improved deal.
Fabricio Coloccini remains the club's best paid player on more than £60,000 a week, significantly more than Cissé. Newcastle have proved in the past they will not be swayed on their own player valuation. Their manager, Alan Pardew, admitted at the end of last season that he wants two new strikers at the club for the start of next season to support Cissé. Andy Carroll, whom Liverpool are eager to offload, remains a potential target.