Tiote would be a difficult man to replace

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Football/Golf Writer

IT'S said that Cheik Tiote is worth £25m.

It's said that Manchester United and Chelsea are interested.

And it's said that Newcastle United would consider a 'silly offer' in that region for his services.

So they should.

When the transfer window opens in January, there is sure to be a few calls to the Newcastle boardroom to try to tempt owner Mike Ashley in to selling.

Alan Pardew, the Newcastle boss, even hinted in his pre-match press conference talk on Thursday that he would not rush in to telling everyone Tiote is not for sale.

Every player, he quite rightly says, has his price.

Pardew expects he will still have the Ivorian in his squad at the end of next month. What Newcastle must guard against is cashing in at the last minute which would leave the squad short.

And while Newcastle have alternative midfield options at the moment, it would take Pardew and his chief scout, Graham Carr, a significant amount of time to find a replacement capable of filling the role for the long term.

Newcastle have shown they can unearth players on the cheap and turn them in to more expensive talents. Tiote, for one, arrived from Twente for as little as £3.5m in the summer of last year and is now regarded as one of the best holding midfielders in the Premier League.

But trying to find another Tiote could be even more difficult. Manchester United, for instance, have one of the greatest scouting networks around and are having to consider Tiote because of what else is available.

If Newcastle's valuation - which Pardew suggests is 'silly' - then few could disagree with them selling.

What they must show, though, is that lessons have been learned from losing Andy Carroll for £35m last January without a replacement lined up.

After so much good work in the last few months, Newcastle should do everything they can to keep the momentum building.

If Tiote does leave, it should be on the right terms and with a new face primed to slot straight in.

Otherwise they should dig their heels in and keep him and think again in the summer.

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