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Newcastle confident of resolving Cisse dispute
NEWCASTLE United officials are confident of resolving a stand-off with Papiss Cisse about the striker's reluctance to wear a strip featuring the logo of new sponsors, Wonga.
However, while there is a desire to respect Cisse's Islamic beliefs, it is extremely unlikely that the Senegal international will be allowed to wear his own customised shirt without any Wonga branding next season.
Cisse's representatives have informed senior Newcastle officials that sharia law forbids the 28-year-old from representing or advertising a loans company.
Sharia rules state that Muslims must not benefit from either lending or receiving money, and Islamic banking institutions do not charge interest in the conventional sense.
Neither Cheik Tiote nor Hatem Ben Arfa, who are also practising Muslims, have raised concerns, but Cisse is insistent that he does not feel comfortable being associated with Wonga.
The striker is currently on international duty with Senegal, and scored his side's goal in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Angola in a World Cup qualifier.
He is expected to remain in Africa on holiday at the end of the international break, and is not due to return to England until the start of July.
A meeting will be scheduled for the first week of pre-season training, where the issue of next season's kit will be discussed.
The Newcastle hierarchy have previously been willing to accommodate their players' religious requirements, even installing a prayer room at the club's Darsley Park training complex.
However, it is understood the issue of Wonga's sponsorship is non-negotiable and individual players will not be allowed to opt out of promoting the club's headline sponsors.
Sevilla allowed Freddie Kanoute to wear an unbranded shirt when he objected to the Spanish club's tie-up with gambling website, 888.com, but Newcastle do not want to go down that route.
Magpies officials have noted that Cisse was willing to wear the branding of Virgin Money, another finance company that falls foul of Sharia regulations, and never raised ethical concerns about their practices.
The club's lawyers will be poring over the fine detail of Cisse's contract to ascertain the degree to which an employee can be forced to adhere to club regulations, even if they contravene religious beliefs.
It will be difficult to force Cisse to do something against his wishes, as Alan Pardew will be reluctant to start the new campaign with an unmotivated or hostile player in his ranks.
However, it is hoped that a compromise agreement can be reached that will see both parties settle on a mutually acceptable position.
The talks about next season's Wonga branding will be part of a wider discussion about Cisse's future, with the striker keen to secure an improved contract, but both Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias reluctant to agree to a new deal.
Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala have made a formal inquiry about Cisse's services, although their interest is not believed to be at as advanced a stage as some media outlets have suggested.
Nevertheless, the Newcastle hierarchy are fully aware of the mounting uncertainty surrounding their number nine, and will be keen to have the situation resolved one way or another before the start of next season.
There is no desire to sell Cisse, but as previous situations have proved, Ashley and Llambias can shift their position quickly once an offer is placed on the table.
Meanwhile, Newcastle are monitoring Ivory Coast international Gervinho for the second time in three summers.
The Magpies were close to signing Gervinho in 2011, only for the winger to complete an £11m move to Arsenal instead.
His two seasons at the Emirates have hardly been a roaring success, and he is expected to leave the Gunners for a reduced fee this summer.
Newcastle would be interested in the 26-year-old if the price was right, although Gervinho is understood to prefer a return to France.
With a proposed summer trip to South Africa having collapsed, the Magpies are expected to confirm their pre-season plans in the first half of this week.
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