Defensive midfielder Cheik Tiote* has signed a new 6 1/2 year deal with Newcastle United that will keep the 24 year-old on Tyneside until the end of the 2016-17 season. (NUFC Official Site) Tiote, who was signed by Chris Hughton last summer, is perhaps best known outside of Newcastle for scoring the equalizing goal in the Magpies' epic 4-4 comeback against Arsenal earlier this month. Newcastle fans know that Tiote has been a strong presence in the back of the midfield capable of displaying poise under pressure.
*Two brief notes: (1) Thanks to Rockets4LIFE for posting a FanShot on this earlier today. (2) The English spelling of Tiote's first name has continually been in question since he signed for the club; we decided long ago that we would go with "Cheik" because that's how he's registered with the Premier League.
We love Cheik Tiote. I don't know very many Newcastle fans that don't. He's endeared himself to the Toon Army with his tough play and it was clear following his suspension due to a red card in the Stevenage debacle that he had become an integral part of the midfield. Recently, he has taken on more of a distributing role, and the result has been an increase in scoring, even with a dilapidated front line. Alan Pardew said the following about his young star:
Cheik has been immense for us this season and is exactly the type of player I want in my squad. He is fantastic on the pitch and in the changing room and is vital for everything we want to achieve. Cheik offers us strength and presence in midfield and has proved himself to be one of the best in his position in the Premier League. He's adapted brilliantly to the English game and I'm delighted he's signed a new deal with us.
It is hoped that the signing of Tiote may convince other key Newcastle players to re-up their contracts as well. Following the sale of Andy Carroll to Liverpool in January, there has been much speculation that owner Mike Ashley and chairman Derek Llambias would be willing to have a fire sale of sorts this summer. Recently upcoming free agents Joey Barton and Jonás Gutiérrez have expressed concern that the proceeds from the Carroll sale be spent on improving the squad, with Jose Enrique Sanchez also refusing to talk about an extension until Newcastle are mathematically guaranteed survival from relegation back to the Championship. The signing of Tiote could as much as anything else be a signal from management to players that they are committed to building a winner.
It's no secret that many of the more well-known Newcastle players have been listed as summer targets for the larger clubs in the newspapers, especially on slow news days. (Check out the permalink on MirrorFootball's article about the signing, for example.) This new contract likely won't do much to detract from the interest of other teams, except in the following two ways: (1) Certain clubs tend to shy away from long-term deals, and (2) Transfer fees will have to be negotiated at a higher price. More years equal more quid. In other words, the probability of a transfer remains roughly the same, but the likelihood that the club could gain something of significance if Tiote does leave goes up.
More than buying leverage, though, I believe the team is buying the confidence of its players, as I alluded to above. The signings of Tiote and Hatem Ben Arfa this month signal that the team is ready to build around a young, talented core (overpriced Geordie strikers notwithstanding), and it's this sort of attitude more than anything else that may convince Barton, Gutiérrez, and Enrique that sticking around might just be worth it.
Pardew said as much himself:
Negotiations are very difficult at this level of football and I think the signing of Cheik underpins the message Mike Ashley wants to give that we can build a young team here which can take the club forward. Mike wanted to make a statement after Andy left that the future can be bright. Signing Cheik is a big step and hopefully now we can build on this.
Make sure you check out the 4 and half minute video clip of the press conference attached to this BBC Sport article.