Why buying Ba can become a nightmare as middlemen threaten to hijack the deal
22:30 GMT, 31 December 2012
As the transfer window opens on Tuesday, the deal to take Demba Ba from Newcastle United offers a cautionary tale for clubs preparing to risk all.
Newcastle, Chelsea and any other prospective buyers are having to deal with a relatively new phenomenon, fending off an assorted bunch of intermediaries, transfer fixers, friends and family members associated with the Senegal striker.
They all want a piece of the pie, cashing in on a player with 13 goals in the Barclays Premier League for Alan Pardew’s side this season.
Waving goodbye Newcastle's Demba Ba looks set to leave the club this month
Ba is big business and there is money to be made as the deal-makers chase 5million in commission — money the buying club would have to pay over the term of the player’s four-year deal — to seal the biggest move of his career.
The Newcastle striker has an official agent — Frenchman Alex Gontran — and he alone has the mandate to sell Ba to another club for a fixed fee of 7m.
Everybody else is simply trying to hijack the deal, causing hysteria by relentlessly putting calls in to Premier League clubs about his availability. Some of the sums are bewildering, but Newcastle accept that the transfer window attracts opportunists.
Ba is already due a 2m bonus if he leaves St James’ Park after he negotiated a separate clause in his contract when he arrived on a free transfer from West Ham in 2011. He moved after the Hammers were relegated, and he negotiated a deal worth 45,000 a week, including appearance fees.
Sort it out: Newcastle boss Alan Pardew wants the transfer sorted out professionally
Taking into account his demand for a four-year contract worth 90,000 a week at Chelsea, along with the transfer fee and commission, the total outlay for Ba’s new club could reach 28m. Big money, but the risks are even bigger.
He is likely to fail a thorough club medical because of a chronic condition in his right knee and there is always a danger of complications in the future. Yet, this has never stopped him training at Newcastle and he, and the club, are proud of the fact he has never missed a day on the practice pitch with soreness or swelling.
The injury, which led to a move to Stoke falling through in January 2011, remains a big risk for Premier League suitors.
When his representatives met Chelsea, they failed to reach an agreement on the commission and salary for a player who appears determined to leave St James’ Park.
Newcastle’s managing director Derek Llambias is entitled to take issue with Chelsea for meeting Ba’s representatives on Sunday night but the club have no conclusive proof that the talks did take place.
Ready and waiting: Papiss Cisse is ready to take the centre forward role if Ba leaves
Llambias has yet to receive an email from any club, which would trigger the 7m release clause in his contract, but it hasn’t stopped negotiations taking place outside Newcastle.
Around two months ago, Llambias opened talks over a new contract, but Ba made it clear that he wanted to explore other options in January. The club made a final offer and — with the window in mind — set a strict deadline.
If Ba refuses the improved terms on offer on Tyneside he will remain on 45,000 a week for the next 18 months unless his release clause is triggered.
Despite the current uncertainty, Ba has been a great piece of business for Newcastle, scoring 16 goals in the Premier League last season.
Llambias, a shrewd operator, will be heading to Europe later this week as Newcastle prepare to sign a replacement.
After owner Mike Ashley squandered fortunes in his first few years at the club, Llambias runs a tight ship and is at ease as Ba works his exit strategy.
Incoming: Mathieu Debuchy looks set to join Newcastle
Papiss Cisse, scorer of 13 in 14 Premier League games last season — including the BBC’s goal of the season at Chelsea — will be promoted to play in his place.
Newcastle, who are also exploring other options, themselves make a habit of getting the jump on their rivals by discovering release clauses in their targets’ contracts. Their scouting strategy is the envy of the Premier League and player recruitment is run by the renowned talent spotter, Graham Carr.
In the summer they offered Lille 8m for right back Mathieu Debuchy, but the French club were under no pressure to sell after Chelsea paid 32m for Eden Hazard.
Making the right call: Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley and managing director Derek Llambias know every transfer has an element of risk
Six months on they have finally landed their man for around 5.5m and France defender Debuchy will be at St James’ Park tomorrow to watch Newcastle play Everton.
It is a deal that has ultimately worked in the North East club’s favour, but Llambias knows every transfer is a gamble.
Modern players are told by their agents to run down their contracts until they reach the point of no return. Newcastle open talks with their top players two years before their contracts end, but they have not always benefited.
Left back Jose Enrique refused to renegotiate a long-term deal and eventually signed for Liverpool in 2011 for a vastly reduced fee based on the term left on his contract.
There is little risk, other than loss of form, if Ba refuses to renegotiate with Newcastle and is unable to reach an agreement with another club.
In the meantime, Ba’s middlemen will be chasing big money.