Alan Pardew has urged Demba Ba to ignore the “sharks” surrounding him and accept the £50,000-a-week final offer to stay at Newcastle United.
Chelsea today withdrew from talks with Ba's representatives as Pardew revealed that Newcastle had not received a single formal offer for the centre-forward.
Ba wants a deal in excess of £80,000 per week to stay at St James' Park, which is way beyond the ceiling for player salaries at the club.
There has been doubt surrounding the Senegalese striker's future ever since it was revealed he had a clause in his contract that allows him to leave for £7.5m. Ba himself would receive £2.5m of that fee. Newcastle signed the player for nothing following another clause that was inserted into his contract when he moved to West Ham, allowing him to leave for free if the club were relegated in 2011, which they were. Newcastle did, however, have to pay substantial fees to the parties who represent the player.
Since he moved to Newcastle 18 months ago, Ba has been a regular goalscorer, his two strikes at Arsenal on Saturday taking his tally to 29 goals in 54 Premier League games. That has brought reports of interest from Galatasaray, Arsenal, Liverpool and Queen's Park Rangers, but Newcastle insist no club has formally enquired about the player.
Ba has similarly never told Pardew that he wants to leave Newcastle, but the manager's frustration with the unrest, alongside the possibility of signing Marseilles' Loïc Rémy as a replacement, is now apparent.
"I think it's difficult for our fans to really feel that Demba is solid with the team and everything else that's going on," Pardew said. "When he's played he's never represented that, he's always represented his full commitment to the team and I do think he's slightly becoming a victim of a few sharks around him. But, having said that, our fans want loyalty. This is a big club and I think perhaps he needs to make a statement at some point.
"I think he needs, in this window, to make a decision fairly early. I think for everyone's sake, most of all himself. Especially for our fans, they need to know he's going to be with us to the summer or not. We need to know as well, we need to make sure that we have a replacement ready if he leaves, and it will become more apparent if he leaves early.
"Has he ever said he wants to leave? No. We've had a few discussions along that line. At the end of the day if he feels that our offer isn't right for him, what can I do?
"I can't remember a situation like it, quite with this level of speculation and information being put about," Pardew added. "So I think that's a frustration for us as a club, massively. I can't put it any milder than that.
"I do feel, for our fans, he needs to give a message of some description. We're in an important stage of the season for us. We had a terrible result against Arsenal [a 7-3 defeat], we need to turn that around.
"I don't want to get trapped in an Andy Carroll situation here, where I said he wouldn't go and he did go. That's really all I'm guarding against. There's nothing that I know of that suspects he won't play on Wednesday [against Everton]."
Pardew, who believes it is an even-money bet as to whether Ba stays at Newcastle until the summer, when he would have 12 months left on his deal, will have Yohan Cabaye and Steven Taylor back for the Premier league game with Norwich later this month, ahead of schedule. Mathieu Debuchy, the France right-back, is expected to be at St James' Park for the Everton game ahead of his impending move to Newcastle.
Ba in numbers: Demba's digits
2: Only players to have scored more Premier League goals since Ba's arrival: Van Persie and Rooney.
36: Goals scored in 70 games for West Ham and Newcastle.
0.51: Demba Ba's goals per game average in English football.