NEWCASTLE UNITED are hoping to complete a French double this summer with the capture of Ligue 1 duo Remy Cabella and Alexandre Lacazette.
The Magpies are set to resurrect their interest in Cabella after Montpellier chairman Louis Nicollin confirmed the attacking midfielder will almost certainly be moving on at the end of the season.
And as they look to maintain their dominance of the French market, the Magpies are also ready to launch a concerted summer effort to sign Lyon striker Lacazette.
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Lacazette has emerged as one of the most highly-rated strikers in Ligue 1 this season, scoring 14 goals in 29 starts despite Lyon's failure to challenge for a top-three position.
The 22-year-old has two more years on his contract, but is expected to leave the Stade Gerland if, as looks likely, Lyon miss out on a Champions League place.
Everton have already expressed an interest in the striker, and Liverpool have also been linked with a possible move for the two-time France international.
However, Newcastle officials are hopeful that their strong relationship with a number of key French agents and club representatives will enable them to steal a march on their rivals as they attempt to lure Lacazette, who is likely to cost around £10m, to the North-East.
Cabella was identified as Newcastle’s preferred replacement for Yohan Cabaye long before the latter joined Paris St Germain, but the Magpies were unable to agree a deal for the 24-year-old before the transfer window closed in January.
At the time, Nicollin was adamant that he would not allow Cabella to leave while Montpellier were still battling against relegation in the bottom half of the Ligue 1 table.
Since then, they have risen to the relative safety of 13th position, with Cabella’s ten goals from 35 outings playing a major role in their anticipated survival.
As a result, Nicollin has been able to turn his attention to the future, and the flamboyant chairman anticipates both Cabella and striker Benjamin Stambouli leaving when the transfer window reopens this summer.
“Stambouli’s future? That is sorted, he will leave,” said Nicollin. “Probably Cabella as well. About (M’Baye) Niang, we will have to see what happens with AC Milan (where he is on loan) because that will be expensive.”
Graham Carr has long championed Cabella’s cause in the corridors of power at St James’ Park, and while Lee Charnley’s promotion to the position of managing director means he will assume an increased influence over transfers, the views of Newcastle’s chief scout will continue to carry considerable weight.
Alan Pardew would prefer to sign more domestic players this summer, but the Magpies manager was keen to sign Cabella in January and is understood to regard the former France under-21 international as a genuine replacement for Cabaye.
Whether Newcastle can land him remains to be seen, as their January valuation of around £10m is unlikely to be high enough to tempt Montpellier to sell. The French club are expected to demand more than £15m for their leading asset, but having sold Cabaye, a proven international, for £20m, Mike Ashley is unlikely to be willing to shell out three-quarters of that sum for a much more untested replacement.
As well as targeting the French market, Newcastle’s recruitment team have also been monitoring a number of players in Holland and Switzerland this spring.
* Newcastle have been instructed to pay Southampton more than £12,000 after the Premier League upheld a complaint about their ticket prices for December’s home game against the Saints.
After Southampton rejected Newcastle’s offer of a reciprocal deal that would have seen the price of away tickets reduced at both matches involving the two clubs, the Magpies set away ticket prices for Southampton’s visit to St James’ Park at £37 for adults, £33 for seniors and £22 for juniors – the same price imposed by the Saints on Newcastle fans travelling to St Mary’s in March.
Newcastle argued that the prices matched those charged to home fans in adjacent seats on level seven of the Leazes End, but the Premier League upheld Southampton’s claim that they were unfair.
A Newcastle statement said: “The Premier League argued that seats at the opposite end of the stadium in the upper Gallowgate End constituted a 'comparable area' where tickets were available for less, despite notable differences in the configuration, facilities and viewing angle between the stands.
“Last season, Newcastle's travelling fans were charged an average of £39.87 for their match tickets by Premier League clubs, while visitors to St. James' Park paid, on average, only £29.63.
“Newcastle United are proud to be at the forefront of keeping our national game affordable and will continue to pursue reciprocal pricing deals for the benefit of all football supporters where possible.”