HAVEN'T we been here before? With the winter transfer window ready to open, the mention of a certain clause in Demba Ba's contract has managed to cause a stir. Again.
Just when the memory of a summer of uncertainty surrounding the future of the Senegalese striker was beginning to fade. Bang. The whole sorry mess is rolling once more.
Now Newcastle United must come up with a way of ending the saga once and for all.
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The situation does not seem to be affecting the player himself, who continues to score goals in the Premier League, but to think the constant talk about the leading goalscorer's future will not affect the team would be naive.
The problem Newcastle have is how to solve it?
Whether it is Ba or his representatives that are angling for a move, either way, it is time for Newcastle to sell. But who to?
Chelsea, it is easy to presume, are one of the clubs that would have interested Ba. But when one of the richest clubs in the world are not in a position to meet the contract demands on the table then surely the majority of interested clubs would face similar problems.
The £7.5m release clause in his contract is purely the easy bit. Matching his wage demands – thought to be double what he is on at Newcastle – and paying substantial agent fees are a major stumbling block.
For a player known to have a knee problem such demands make clubs wary, even though he has shown he is capable of playing regularly in the Premier League since joining West Ham from Hoffenheim two years ago in January.
What should concern Newcastle is that Ba and his team of advisors are likely to think nothing of running down the remaining 18 months of his contract, with the £7.5m buy-out clause in tow.
And while Newcastle would still get to keep the 27-year-old for that length of time, they would stand to lose him for nothing having regularly outlined a desire to keep him.
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has revealed the offer of a new contract – the terms of which are way short of Ba's £80,000-a-week demands – remains on the table and if it was signed then the clause would be taken out. The constant speculation over the African's future would disappear.
But Pardew is clearly getting frustrated by it too. “I need it resolved as quickly as possible,” he said.
“That's the best situation for the fans and the club. It's getting close to the point where we say 'no more'. Ideally we want him to stay.”
Ba took his tally to 13 goals for the season at Arsenal on Saturday, meaning only Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero have scored more than him since August 2011. He also scored 16 last season.
Newcastle are already considering replacements, like Marseille's Loic Remy, and Pardew can ill-afford to be wondering whether he will still have Ba in the closing stages of the January transfer window.
If something is going to happen then Newcastle need to make sure it happens now. If Ba wants out then the Magpies should help the best way they can, but the player's team of advisors need to act sensibly too.