While it remains unclear what club will adorn the next chapter of the Demba Ba story, regardless of whether or not his future lies at Newcastle United, the bizarre framework behind his potential exit at St. James’ Park throws up some very peculiar emotions indeed.
Following a stunning haul of 36 goals in 66 Premier League games since his arrival on these shores with West Ham in 2011, Demba Ba has become one of the division’s most sought after goalscoring assets. And after scoring 29 of those goals in a Newcastle shirt, as you would expect, Magpies fans are loathsome to see such a gifted goalscoring talent potentially head for the exit door.
Of course, if Ba was to be sold for the going market rate of a top Premier League goalscorer, perhaps supporters wouldn’t necessarily feel quite as sad to see him go. But the fact is that if Ba leaves Newcastle, he isn’t going to depart for anything near £20million or what you might consider to be market value. He is free to anyone willing to cough up a relatively paltry £7.5million.
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The sub-plot here is that while Ba might be leaving for what some would consider an astonishingly low price considering his performances in the Premier League, he didn’t exactly cost Alan Pardew’s side much in the way of a pretty penny when he was recruited in the first place. In June 2011, he signed a three-year deal on a free transfer from relegated West Ham United.
This is of course the unorthodox, spectacular and increasingly bizarre tale of Demba Ba and his contractual tales since he first swapped Hoffenheim for Upton Park nearly two years ago next month. It’s one of opportunism, well-taken chances and ultimately an incredible ability to pop up in the right place at the right time – on both the field of play and the contract table away from it.
Because it’s difficult to remember a time in which a club has felt quite as powerless as Newcastle currently do in the protracted sale of not just one of their own contracted players, but perhaps their best one, too. With the striker’s £7.5million buyout clause now common knowledge, the Magpies have been reduced to something resembling a third wheel, as Ba and his small entourage of representatives have begun flirting with a move away from Tyneside.
While a £7.5million fee isn’t quite peanuts, Ba’s success in front of goal has rendered the price almost obsolete –a proven Premier League striker about to hit his prime years for less than eight figures represents an absolute snip for whoever you are. Although talks with Chelsea appear to have broken down, the Blues, cash-rich Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal remain as some of the interested parties.
Yet even after picking Ba up for free and with the club set to make a profit on his sale, if you’re a Newcastle fan, you can’t help but feel aggrieved at the nature in which Ba’s potential exit has come about. Because for however lucky Newcastle may have been in picking Ba up on a free, Ba wasn’t exactly luckless in making his way to St. James’ Park, either.
For all the supposed ‘suitors’ that were lining up to snap Ba up in the summer of 2011, it was ultimately Newcastle who served him up a contract. And judging by the unscrupulous way in which his representatives are currently trying to drum up their client’s hype machine, don’t think that list of suitors last year was quite as long as what it may seem.
Even after his impressive half season with West Ham United, let’s not forget the same lingering knee complaint that nearly completely wrote off his arrival to English football in the first place, was still an issue when he signed for Newcastle. It’s the reason he’s ‘only’ earning £20,000-a-week with a further £20,000 in appearance money. But Alan Pardew and Newcastle gave him that chance. Now it appears, Ba is treating that lifeline with contempt as he looks to further his own personal means.
The way in which the details of his contract have slowly leaked into the public domain and how Ba’s representatives have sought to use the press to leverage a move preempts a sad end to a great story up at Newcastle. Although if reports suggesting a move to Stamford Bridge has fallen apart upon wage demands, then perhaps that tells us all we need to know.
Regardless of where Ba does or doesn’t end up next month, he can’t be described as anything else other than an unrivalled success for Newcastle United. He was picked up on a free transfer, cost relatively little in wages and helped fire the side to a superb fifth placed finish in the Premier League.
Although for all his goalscoring credentials, few may ultimately be sad to see him head for pastures new. After the club gave him the platform to perform when no one else did, Ba’s given a wide berth to anything resembling the way of loyalty. There was nothing reckless in the contract Newcastle first drew up for a man who was very much still a risky investment and even though few could have expected the influence he’s gone on to wield for Pardew’s team, there’s nothing wrong with looking to renegotiate 18 months in.
Yet just like his goalscoring exploits, it seems there’s little predictable about Demba Ba. As no one foresaw his 29 league goals, no one could likely predict such a staggering absence of loyalty.