Newcastle Set to Offer Jose Enrique "Fantastic" New Contract, Sign Shane Ferguson to New Deal

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - MAY 22: Newcastle player Shane Ferguson (r) in action during the Barclays Premier League game between Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion at St James' Park on May 22, 2011 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Newcastle United have announced that they are prepared to offer Jose Enrique Sanchez what Alan Pardew calls a "fantastic" new contract in an effort to keep him on Tyneside. (The Chronicle) Jose Enrique has long been rumored to be leaving the Toon, with Liverpool and Manchester United among the suitors for his services, while Pardew has insisted all along that he wants to keep the star left back.  The Magpies boss has been given plenty of cash for summer spending, but must take care of his own players even as chief scout Graham Carr scours the planet for new blood.  Jose Enrique is expected to be the first domino to fall, and his fate could affect whether or not Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton, and Jonás Gutiérrez sign new deals as well.

I've included some commentary after the jump.

Back in February, JE made comments that he "aspired to more" than just survival, leading many to believe that he was unhappy with the standing of his current club within English football.  He clarified his comments earlier this month following rumors that his transfer to Liverpool was done, saying that he was "happy to stay, happy to leave."  In the last couple of days, Newcastle reportedly turned down a £4 million transfer attempt from the Reds.  (Though to be honest, that doesn't really tell me much about NUFC's willingness to keep him, since that figure is well below his speculated market value.)

In a somewhat related move, Shane Ferguson today signed a new five-year deal with the club. (NUFC Official Site) Ferguson made his senior debut this season and was very impressive both at left back and in midfield.  He is widely considered to be the organization's internal candidate to replace Jose Enrique in the event of his departure, and though he does represent a downgrade in the short-term at that position, he is a very promising prospect and Newcastle have done well to lock him up.

While I don't interpret Ferguson's signing as a move for leverage by the club, it's possible that Jose Enrique and his agent will see it that way, which could make the upcoming negotiations very interesting.  For his part, Ferguson had the following to say:

I'm really happy. I've enjoyed this season so much and the new contract has just been the icing on the cake for me. It's a great thrill to play for the club and the support I've had from the fans since making my debut really means a lot so I'm just delighted to be with Newcastle for the next five years now.

Hopefully, in four years Newcastle will be in such a position that Ferguson won't find it necessary to "aspire to more."  In the meantime, it's encouraging that Newcastle are at least willing to fight for Jose Enrique, and in the meantime, have begun taking steps to improve the depth behind him.

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