The first few months of 2012 didn’t look too favourably upon Newcastle United striker Demba Ba. After suffering a demoralising exit from the African Cup of Nations, Ba mustered a solitary goal in the remaining four months of the season, as he was forced to live in the shadow of his shiny new strike partner.
However, since the beginning of the new Premier League campaign, Ba has rediscovered his elusive shooting boots and begun trading blows with Robin van Persie at the top of the goalscoring charts. It seems that every time he finds the back of net the tabloids force him closer to the exit at St. James’ Park, but would a transfer to the reported destination of Liverpool really benefit either party?
There’s no denying that Demba Ba is idolised on Tyneside and has far exceeded the expectations placed upon him since joining from West Ham, despite the fact his clinical nature in front of goal nearly spared the Hammers from relegation. Ba has even helped fill the void exposed by the departure of talisman Andy Carroll as the club re-established their place on the European stage.
Many fans will question why Ba would consider destabilising what appears to be an ideal set-up at Newcastle. Alongside the mutual affection with the supporters, he is surrounded by a gifted array of team-mates, many of whom also speak French and share the same religious beliefs.
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Yet, scratch the surface and the unmistakable stench of frustration hangs in the air as manager Alan Pardew struggles to craft a winning formula that involves both his lethal Senegalese pairing. Last month Ba emerged from the bench to bag a brace and rescue a draw against Everton before publicly declaring his disappointment – via his agent – at his apparent part-time role within the team.
“Since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations, Demba doesn’t understand the management.
“If he continues to be a substitute all season, we’ll look at other solutions.
“How could you put your best striker with full confidence on the left wing?” (Daily Mail)
Ba has been an unforeseen victim of Papiss Cisse’s success, after he was effectively made impotent on the wing in order to support his new free-scoring compatriot. This season has seen Ba return to his preferred position as the fixed point of attack, which has reopened the flood gates although it now means he is competing for a single place alongside Cisse and Shola Ameobi. Ba clearly likes to be the focus the attention, what striker doesn’t? But would he merit such a status at Liverpool?
For better or worse Brendan Rodgers’ strike force currently consists solely of Luis Suarez. As much as it pains me to say it, Suarez is one of the most gifted players in the league. His movement off the ball is surpassed only when he finds the ball at his feet and as Burnley defender Kevin Long pointed out on Twitter, the man could nutmeg a mermaid. His brilliance has forced new signing Fabio Borini onto the wing, hindering the Italian much in the same way that Ba was last season.
However, neither Suarez nor Borini are notorious for their prolific nature in front of goal. Ba is natural finisher, a player who harbours a similar degree of strength and aerial presence as Andy Carroll coupled with a greater potential to conform to new tiki-taka tactics on display at Anfield. Brendan Rodgers will surely be deliberating a potential move in January alongside a number of other candidates, but he is unlikely to be able to offer a path straight into the first-team.
If Liverpool can’t offer a distinguished spot in their starting XI, what can they offer? Both teams are currently enjoying/enduring life in the Europa League and neither side are likely to achieve Champions League qualification this time around. As obnoxious as it sounds, Liverpool are perhaps more willing to present Ba with the significant pay rise that the striker has been desperately chasing.
Pardew has reportedly told Ba that contract discussions will not happen until the summer, which also means that his £7m release clause will remain in effect. However, despite his infamous injury troubles, Ba will no doubt feel aggrieved that his manager has been rewarded for his efforts with a new long-term deal and he has not.
At 27 years of age Ba is entering his physical prime and will perhaps have one eye on that ‘career defining’ big move. His reputation as a player that can fashion goals out of thin air will always prove a desirable trait and one that Brendan Rodgers could well perceive as invaluable.
However, it strikes me that this is simply another typical ‘power play’ episode, which we witness at clubs on a regular basis. Unlike with Ashley Cole and Theo Walcott, Ba’s contract doesn’t expire until 2014, which means the club still hold all the cards. Pardew will be reluctant to let his prime source of goals leave, especially to a league rival but you can guarantee that head scout Graham Carr has already earmarked a portfolio of exciting replacements.
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