The much ballyhooed and month-long speculated upon alleged loophole in the contract of Demba Ba has closed, and the player has stayed at St. James' Park. This may surprise you because Newcastle are not a big club and any player given half a chance would jump at the chance to ditch the Toon for the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United, Paris St. Germain or Rubin Kazan. Despite Demba's insistence that he had no intention to leave the club, each of these clubs was linked with rumored interest in the Senegalese talisman multiple times each over the past month.
As the time passed and you saw rumored club after rumored club adding a striker not named Demba Ba (Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Fabio Borini for starters), it began to feel more and more like he was going to stay... until the next newest rumored club. Why the new rumors, though? Were they just a vehicle to keep the popular narrative going? There are certain things about this whole release clause situation that don't add up. After the jump, I enumerate these things and look at what's next in a Toon world with Demba in it (for now).
- Demba Ba is still here. There would have been perhaps only one other more perfect storm that would have sent Demba more on the road away from St. James' Park... relegation. That did not happen- and Newcastle qualified for the Europa League. Not the Champions League which will see rumored clubs Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United and Paris St. Germain amongst its numbers this coming season. Also, you can factor in his move out to the left wing following the arrival of Papiss Cisse. While he continued to work hard on the pitch, it was clear he was less than pleased to not be the focus of the attack. Many times you would find him pinching in towards that more central position in the box. Unless Alan Pardew is going to change his mind completely regarding the preferred formation (unlikely), he must've done a hell of a sales job to convince him to stay in the same role. If Demba had wanted to, he would have found the reason to leave. So were there really no clubs interested in a player who scored 16 goals in nearly every way imaginable when he was the pure focal point of the offense? That seems unlikely at best.
- Mike Ashley's business acumen. If we are to believe in Mike Ashley's tremendous business acumen (which we have no reason not to as he continues to slay the sporting goods market and continue to diversify and improve his business holdings), the existence of a release clause just doesn't make sense anyway. Many release clauses exist in the event of a club getting relegated, and frankly many had us tipped to be in the thick of the relegation scrap. Given that, one could almost see an escape clause existing.... but at £7m? If Demba had performed at a level such that someone would be interested in a relegated striker at £7m, the club wouldn't have been relegated. So we can reject that. That, then, leaves the other side of things. If the guy goes out and scores say 15 goals in about half a season, then you've put yourself in a position where you are going to be absolutely unable to maximize profit on a player for which you've built in the ability to force a move. It doesn't fit what you would call good business. It doesn't fit logic. The existence of this clause doesn't make any sense at all except for to drive a narrative and grab some page views.
Seeing as how I cannot conclusively disprove the existence of this clause, let us assume it did exist and it did in fact close. What's next?
We will want to assume, of course, that a sale at this point (while not out of the question) is unlikely to happen... so how do we employ a front line that features both Dembas and ensure that both stay happy while at the same time ensuring the best possible results for the club? If you are set on getting your XI best players on the pitch at the same time, you are pretty well locked into the 4-3-3 to facilitate Hatem Ben Arfa's presence. Do you then move Papiss to the wing and Ba to the middle? It is something that was tried very little last year and may be something worth a look on a quasi-rotational basis... perhaps the contrast in styles would be confusing to some centre-half pairings? I think that with an off season to work on communication and getting used to each other in relation to their teammates, things will start from a better place to begin with. It is going to take commitment from Papiss and the other 9 players on the pitch to work to get Demba the ball in threatening positions. I can recall times from last year when both he and Papiss were available and the ball went to Papiss more often than not. Of course, Papiss did have the hot hand and when you've got someone hitting goals over Petr Cech from the sideline, you feed the man the ball. When Demba Ba was getting the same supply, he hauled in a similar return in goals.
I think that we've seen a little bit of what could be in the plan in the brief amount of time that the two Dembas overlapped during the preseason. We did see Demba Ba dropping off the attack a little bit vs. Braga and providing some almost Yohan Cabaye-esque balls to Papiss, but I imagine that is only half of it. I expect that we'll see Papiss drop back a little bit from time to time with the idea to get the ball through to Ba as he breaks toward the center of the box. Let us not forget that the 4-3-3 was not something that we had a lot of time to tune up last year. With the time to tweak the movement and ideas between the three players, what is not to be excited about having Demba, Demba and Hatem bombing forward in the attack for the Toon this year?