by Ben Barker

A footballer’s career is finite. When 35 is thought of as old, you know nothing will last long. In order to maximise every passing year, we can’t really blame players for wanting to reach the highest level before the bell tolls on their playing career and signals a life of punditry, coaching or acting (yes you, Eric).

Of course there are those whose talents leave something to be desired, and are quite happy to pick up their outstanding wages for very little game time in return. Demba Ba is not one of those.

The 27 year-old Senegalese striker has fit into Premier League life with no issues, scoring 7 in 12 and claiming the top scoring spot in a poor, ‘too-big-to-be-relegated’ West Ham team which did just that, before moving to Tyneside and netting 16 times in his first season at Newcastle. He’s currently got 3 in 4 this season, but uncertainty is afoot.

After being left on the sidelines for the Toon’s game against Everton on Monday night, Ba came on as a sub and (with the help of the linesman) dragged his side back into the match to salvage a point, and prove another point on a personal level.

However, following the game, Ba’s agent stated that his client was confused with his role as a substitute, and that they may have to look at different options. Since that time, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has also revealed that the £7.5m release clause previously thought to have expired in July actually runs through the January ’13 window. Clearly Newcastle wouldn’t want to let one of their star assets leave for such a minimal fee, but they may not have a say in the matter.

Ba’s apparent unrest comes after a less-than-fruitful second half to the 2011/12 season. Pre-January, Ba scored 15 goals in 19 appearances for the Toon, including a stunner against Manchester United. After the arrival of compatriot Papiss Cisse and the pair’s involvement in the Africa Cup of Nations, Ba went on to score just one solitary goal for the Magpies. The difference was that Cisse was handed the coveted number 9 shirt, and played the central striking role that Ba had previously occupied. Ba shifted to the left wing, and watched as Cisse lapped up the plaudits with a 13 goal haul.

“How could you put your best striker with full confidence on the left wing?” claimed Ba’s agent Alex Gontran, and it’s not actually a bad question. The decision by Pardew to put faith in Cisse and sacrifice Ba was a risky one, but it paid off. However, if Ba leaves, that decision will surely have to be recognised as a costly one. Why Newcastle couldn’t play with two strikers and get the best out of both remains unknown, but with a fifth placed finish in the table, many won’t care or mind.

So what could Ba achieve elsewhere if he decided to leave in January? Let’s consider his hypothetical Premiership options:


The Gunners let the prolific Van Persie and not-so-prolific Bendtner leave in the summer, adding Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski to their ranks. Giroud has the potential to set the Emirates alight, but is still finding his feet, whilst Podolski almost prefers to play out on the left wing. If goals are hard to come by over the Christmas period, don’t be surprised to see Wenger spend some of the large summer income on some proven striking talent like Demba Ba. The Sengalese is a French speaker, and could be wooed by Le Professeur and his vision.


The European Champions left no stone unturned in their summer spending, except for the large rock in their attacking spear. Fernando Torres is currently the only recognised out-and-out striker at the club, but Daniel Sturridge pines to be deployed there. With Drogba gone and Romelu ‘mini-Drogba’ Lukaku on loan at West Brom, Chelsea could be in a spot of bother should Torres or Sturridge pick up an injury. However, in a team filled with attacking prowess and young promise, Ba might find it hard to cement a first team place.


The baffling transfer policy at Anfield continued this summer, with Brendan Rodgers letting Andy Carroll head to West Ham on loan, before bringing in Jack Squat to replace him. That’s right, Liverpool shipped out their £35m big man with no replacement in place. The Reds will surely want to fill the void they have upfront, and even with strict financial boundaries and age policies, could make a move for Ba and provide him with the central role he so craves.


Crossing Merseyside you find a completely different approach to the market. David Moyes, known for working miracles with small budgets, was handed some decent money and spent it like a kid in a sweet shop. In came the impressive Mirallas, old boy Pienaar and Steven Naismith to accompany his old Rangers teammate Jelavic. If the rumours are to be believed, Maroune Fellaini could be on his way in January for big money, and that could spark a move for Ba from Moyes, who watched him snatch two points from his side on Monday.


Or of course, Ba could stay put. If Pardew et al convince him to sign a new contract with no release clause, it would be a real success. Until that happens, they need to outline his future role with the club and hope that his agent keeps his trap shut during the run-in to January. Ba could do a lot worse than staying with the Magpies, who have proved shrewd in the transfer market, with cheap buys from the French and Dutch leagues leading them to Europe, while their fans have taken to Ba and Cisse as if they were Geordies from birth.

Clearly there’s no way to predict exactly what will happen between now and January. I can’t sit here and tell you that Demba Ba to Arsenal is as likely as seeing a bloke’s junk on ChatRoulette. What is clear, is that the player has the ambitions to play week in, week out, whether at Newcastle or elsewhere.

The future is Ba-right for Demba (sorry).