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Are Chelsea Tracking Tiote?

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The Northern Echo is reporting - as many fringe blogs were earlier - that Chelsea may be taking an interest in Cheik Tiote as a 1 to 1 replacement for the injured Michael Essien, who is expected to be out for around 6 months due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament.  Also interesting new gaffer Andre Villas-Boas (according to various reports) are Joao Motinho of Porto and Scott Parker of West Ham United (see We Ain't Got No History for thoughts on Parker to Chelsea), who has been linked to Newcastle in the past.  Tiote would not appear to be the Blues' number 1 choice, which will relieve Newcastle supporters, but you can bet that this is a rumor that will not soon die.

Tiote, who has been compared favorably to his boyhood idol, Essien himself, was a revelation for Newcastle in his first season on Tyneside following a £4.5 million move from FC Twente, so much so that in February the club brass signed him to a contract that lasts through the 2016-17 season.  That deal, when it was made, was largely interpreted as a hands-off signal to would-be suitors, a necessary move in the wake of the Andy Carroll sale.  That transaction, while shrewd in and of itself, has acted as a bat signal of sorts for buying clubs - leave your bag of cash by Mike Ashley's door and leave with a young up-and-comer. 

Newcastle has taken the step of stating publicly that they have not in fact received a bid from Stamford Bridge, (Sky Sports) which has been rumored to be in the £15 million range.  That denial is comforting on the surface, but troubling nonetheless because we have again a case of a bigger club seemingly assuming that Newcastle would be willing to sell simply as a response to the suggestion of it. 

We expect that Alan Pardew will understand the importance of Tiote to this squad and run upstairs to cut Mike Ashley's phone line right away.  Having these sort of expectations can drive a sane person crazy, given the circumstances, but it's hard to envision a scenario where Tiote is wrestled away as an injury replacement.  What do you think?