Newcastle play down speculation on Carroll

Pardew focuses on keeping Ba as Liverpool striker's camp dismiss rumours of return

Newcastle United are refusing to become involved in the saga surrounding the future of Liverpool striker Andy Carroll. Newcastle faced headlines yesterday suggesting they could make a cut-price £10m bid to end the 23-year-old's miserable year on Merseyside.

However, as they attempt to fend off any interest in their current leading scorer, Demba Ba, the Tyneside club played down speculation that Carroll could be heading back to the north-east.

The Liverpool striker's camp have insisted they have neither been told to look for, nor are they seeking, a new club for a man whose £35m move to Anfield 12 months ago caught the footballing world by surprise.

In addition, Carroll himself has told friends he will not be returning to Newcastle, with Luis Suarez's eight-game suspension likely to hand him the chance to finally establish himself in Kenny Dalglish's team.

The link with Carroll is perhaps understandable with Ba, the man who has taken over his mantle on Tyneside with such aplomb since the summer, having himself been in the headlines in recent days.

Much to Newcastle's annoyance, news of a release clause in his contract has been made public to leave them on their guard for an approach during the current transfer window.

Ba headed of to join the Senegal squad for the African Cup of Nations having enhanced his reputation enormously with 15 goals for Newcastle already.

Alan Pardew, the Newcastle manager, snapped up the 26-year-old on a free transfer during the summer after West Ham United's relegation triggered a clause in his contract. Pardew moved in while others dithered, concerned about the player's fitness after he had failed a medical at Stoke City in January last year.

Although there was no transfer fee involved, the deal was hugely complicated and had significant financial implications, and any attempt to lure him away might prove similarly convoluted and expensive.

Ba himself has moved to distance himself from at least one person claiming to represent him whose comments have helped to fuel rumours, and while his current employers remain relaxed about the situation, a move to renegotiate his current deal is understood to be under consideration.

In the meantime, Newcastle will concentrate on their own targets this month with a central defender their main concern, although despite Pardew's admission that the addition of another striker was unlikely, they have rekindled their interest in Paris St-Germain's Turkey international Mevlut Erding.

Negotiations over the Turkey international broke down without resolution, although Pardew remains interested in the player despite admitting at the beginning of the month that a forward was unlikely to be among his winter targets.

Newcastle remain keen to land a central defender with Steven Taylor's season-ending Achilles injury further exposing their lack of strength in depth in that department.

Newcastle have also taken Lens's young striker Abdelhakim Omrani on trial. The 20-year-old has played only four games for his French club but has caught the eye of the Premier League club's scouts.

Pardew is also considering a move for Basle's Xherdan Shaqiri. Pardew was impressed by Shaqiri's performances as his Swiss side knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League last month, and he has been put on alert by the news the rising talent is available for a bargain £12m. That's the price Porto are ready to pay for him, although they face competition from Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Shaqiri has already scored four goals in 17 games for Switzerland to confirm the promise he showed in helping his country reach the Under-21 Championship Final. Despite his age, he has plenty of experience having played 79 games for his club.

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