If you are a Newcastle fan at the moment you have certainly become used to Alan Pardew’s key players being linked with Premier League rivals. Rumours of players leaving St James’ Park in January were incessant, with Andy Carroll eventually heading to Liverpool for a whopping £35 million. Many Newcastle supporters will understand the move to some extent, what with the amount of money the club recouped for their number nine, but surely that needs to be it as far as high profile exits are concerned? Once is bad enough, but twice would be the final straw.
Unsurprisingly, the two players that the Premier League big boys are being linked with right now are two of Newcastle’s best performers this season: Jose Enrique and Cheik Tiote. I might be a bit biased, but I would challenge anyone to find a better left back in the Premier League than Enrique. He may have been at fault for Damien Duff’s goal against Fulham and had a bit of a shocker in the first half last week against Arsenal (who didn’t?), but I would put him right up their with the likes of Patrice Evra and maybe even Ashley Cole. If reports to be believed it is telling that Manchester United are interested in ‘The Bull’ as that shows how even Sir Alex Ferguson rates him comparably with Evra.
Then there’s Cheik Tiote who’s been nothing short of a revelation in the Premier League this season. Cries of ‘Cheik who?’ when he signed in the summer for a modest fee have quickly disappeared as he has become a legend on Tyneside in an incredibly short space of time. His stunning volleyed equaliser against Arsenal last weekend certainly hasn’t harmed his growing reputation in the north east, and comparisons are already being drawn with defensive midfielders of yester year. Chelsea reportedly made a bid for the Ivorian in January and are likely to follow that up in the summer, as they look to Tiote as their new Claude Makelele. While Tiote might not have the experience yet, I would argue he impacts the game more than someone like Makelele and is perfectly suited for the style of English football, as has already been shown thus far.
As far as Newcastle are concerned, on the back of the departure of losing Carroll in January, selling either of these two players would be an incredibly bitter pill to swallow. However, I am realistic enough to know that if a Champions League club were to offer stupid money, like Liverpool did for Carroll, then Mike Ashley will put his business head on and be happy to sell. Newcastle don’t want to become a selling club though. They did a decent job of standing relatively firm over Carroll, even if it meant they didn’t have any time to replace him, but there comes a time when you have to say that a player is not for sale, within reason.
Pardew has already said he has all the £35 million from Carroll to spend on rebuilding the squad. I won’t believe that until I see it, but if Newcastle want to keep their best players they have to show they are serious about mounting a challenge for the upper echelons of the Premier League table. As far as Enrique’s and Tiote’s personalities are concerned, the Spaniard has already showed commitment to the club by sticking with Newcastle through relegation, while Tiote seems like someone with his head screwed on. Come summer though bids will come in and heads will be turned, I just hope that Newcastle stand firm as the departure of more key players would really put another nail in the coffin.