NEWCASTLE UNITED’S players begin returning for pre-season training this morning, but the club is increasingly resigned to the permanent absence of Mathieu Debuchy.
Some of the Magpies’ junior players are due to report to Benton today and tomorrow, with the majority of the first-team squad scheduled to return for the first full day of training on Monday.
Debuchy is preparing to represent France in the World Cup quarter-finals this afternoon, so like the rest of Newcastle’s players who have been involved in Brazil, the full-back was never due to be among the first wave of returnees.
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However, it now looks extremely unlikely that he will be back on Tyneside at all, with Arsenal increasingly confident of completing a £12m deal that will see Debuchy replace his compatriot Bacary Sagna, who is poised to move to Manchester City as a free agent later this summer.
Paris St Germain, who can offer Champions League football, and Marseille, who cannot, have expressed an interest in taking Debuchy back to France, and the 28-year-old has previously spoken of a possible return to his homeland.
Arsenal’s interest is at a much more advanced stage though, and sources in London claim the Gunners are bullish about the prospects of Debuchy starting next season at the Emirates.
Arsene Wenger identified the Frenchman as his preferred replacement for Sagna as soon as it became apparent that he would have to recruit a new right-back this summer, and there is understood to have been contact at a senior level between officials at Arsenal and Newcastle.
There has been no formal bid at this stage, but the Arsenal hierarchy are aware of Newcastle’s £12m valuation, and are ready to match it in order to recruit a player whose stock has risen again thanks to his strong performances in a France shirt this summer.
Having accepted that Debuchy is extremely unlikely to remain on Tyneside, Newcastle’s recruitment team have been able to step up their own pursuit of a replacement.
Arsenal’s Carl Jenkinson is being considered, but will not be included in any potential deal for Debuchy, while Toulouse’s Ivory Coast international Serge Aurier and Feyenoord’s Holland full-back Daryl Janmaat have been scouted in the past.
Micah Richards would potentially be of interest if he was to significantly reduce his previous wage demands of around £70,000-a-week, although at this stage, other options are preferred.
Newcastle do not have a natural replacement for Debuchy in their squad, and while Davide Santon could potentially be switched to the right flank or Vurnon Anita pressed into a role that did not really suit him towards the end of last season, Alan Pardew has pushed hard for a direct replacement if Debuchy leaves.
While it is dangerous to take anything for granted on Tyneside until contracts are signed are sealed, it looks like being a battle he will win.
Pardew had also hoped to have at least one new striker in place before the start of pre-season training, and while this week’s arrival of Siem de Jong has provided a timely boost, there is bound to be a degree of frustration that Newcastle’s pursuit of a number of centre-forwards is still to come to fruition.
Pierre-Michel Lassoga and Alexandre Lacazette remain the two preferred options, with the Magpies also ready to make a renewed approach for Remy Cabella once the World Cup is over.