STEVE BRUCE thinks Mike Ashley’s willingness to splash the cash on a new midfielder showed it was very much business as usual at Newcastle United in the January transfer window – even if a whopping £35m deal didn’t materialise.

Despite ongoing takeover talk surrounding the Magpies centred on a possible £340m offer from Amanda Staveley’s consortium largely financed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, Bruce revealed before the 11pm transfer window deadline that the huge bid was made for a new player.

The player that was targeted was Lille’s Boubakary Soumare, even though the Newcastle head coach was keen to keep his identity under wraps, and the bid is understood to have been accepted by the French club only for the Frenchman to turn down the chance to head to Tyneside.

Even though it was unsuccessful, Newcastle still made the move and that will lead to fans questioning what that means after a week of claim and counter claim about the Saudi takeover.

On that front Bruce, trying to focus on Saturday’s visit of Norwich City, insisted: “If there was something to talk about and something to tell me, he’ll (Lee Charnley, managing director) tell me. At the moment all he’s said, there’s nothing in it.”

The move for Soumare, a 20-year-old sought by numerous clubs including Manchester United, was carried out after Bruce had met up with Ashley and Charnley to discuss the window and targets.

“As I said, the conversation we had was who was our No 1 target and this particular player was the No 1 target for everyone,” said Bruce. “With the people who have been linked with him, it will be interesting to see if he will move today (deadline day) but I don’t think he will.

“The meeting was productive and, of course, we had to change tact a couple weeks ago with we might need a left-back, left wing-back.

“I think with him it was just to keep his options open. He’s only young and there’s a lot of top clubs who have been linked with him. You’ve got to respect the decision.

“At the death, it was, ‘we want to keep our options open until the summer’. He changed his mind - otherwise I wouldn’t have gone on a goose chase. Certainly, I wouldn’t be getting on the plane.”

The plane was on the runway ready to take Bruce abroad to meet up with the target, only for it to be cancelled at the 11th hour, and the Newcastle boss is unlikely to revisit that in the summer.

It does raise the question why a new striker was not targeted instead with that sort of money, given Joelinton’s struggles since moving from Hoffenheim for £40m.

“There wasn’t a striker to be hand at that sort of money and that’s the top and bottom of it,” said Bruce. “Who can we buy who can make a difference to us? There simply isn’t anyone who is better than what we’ve got, in my opinion.

“Because of the strikers we’ve got, I just think the creativity of us is very difficult for a striker. You can have as good striker as you can up the pitch but if you can’t create enough to them. That’s where I think we fall a bit short. We have to be better, a bit more creative as a team. With all of it, it’s how can I improve us without just putting all our attention on a striker?”

Newcastle were knocked back by Olivier Giroud earlier this month when it became apparent he could leave Chelsea, who kept him because they couldn’t find a replacement. They had also tried a couple of alternatives, while Hull City’s Jarrow Bowen was deemed too much of a risk for the cash involved.

Bruce was true to his word throughout January in that he retained the services of Dwight Gayle, despite huge interest in him from the Championship.

Christian Atsu has turned down the chance to join Blackburn, Nottingham Forest and Celtic too, while South Korean midfielder Ki Sung-yeung had the rest of his contract ripped up.

The 31-year-old’s contract was due to expire in the summer anyway so an agreement has been reached, enabling him to find a club after the window closed. Ki’s final Premier League appearance came in the 5-0 defeat at Leicester.

Ki said: “I am always grateful for our fans’ support. It was great honour and happiness of mine to play for such a great club. I will never forget the time with Newcastle fans. It is a pity that I could not do better but sometimes in football, there are things I could not overcome.”