Demba Ba: More than just a strawberry syrup addict

Pards: 'Stay and you can have as much syrup as you like!'

You could have taken 50/1 with bookmakers in August for Demba Ba to be the Premier League’s top scorer this season, but after the Senegal striker’s Alan Shearer-esque start to the season for the Magpies he is now as short as 9/1. With Ba now back in Africa with Senegal preparing for the African Cup of Nations, he faces a tough task if he is to remain as the Premier League’s top scorer for the remainder of the season. Only Robin van Persie has outscored Ba in the Premier League, with RvP on 17 goals and Ba on 15, Ba has made people sit up, take note and ask just how good Ba is.

From a Newcastle United perspective it seems fair to argue the club has never truly replaced their iconic talisman and record goalscorer Alan Shearer. Shola Ameobi has never consistently produced the goods. Leon Best, while talented, suffers from injury, inconsistency and confidence issues. Nile Ranger has off the field problems while the likes of Peter Lovenkrands were only ever short-term acquisitions. It was Andy Carroll who looked like he was the natural replacement to Shearer, his old-fashioned style and physical strength resembling Shearer in his pomp, but when Liverpool got out their very large chequebook last year, it was inevitable he would move to Merseyside, especially for such an unjustified fee.

Still, with a whopping £35million in the bank Newcastle fans can’t have been too worried. Quality strikers don’t always cost the earth; just look at Javier Hernandez at Manchester United or even Luiz Suarez at Liverpool, who at £22million is looking a bargain certainly compared to his team-mate Carroll and even more so when we look at who he was bought to replace, Fernando Torres (£50million). A few eyebrows must have been raised when the Newcastle hierarchy decided to spend the grand sum of zero by getting in Ba on a free transfer from West Ham last June. In fairness to Ba he had done well at West Ham, a club doomed for relegation once more. He had banged in 7 goals in 12 games towards the end of the season in a run that echoed Carlos Tevez’s miraculous rescue act a few years before. Ultimately though it wasn’t enough to save the Hammers and with Ba’s well known medical problems (his transfer to Stoke in late 2009 had fallen through because of knee issues), it was always going to be gamble giving the hitman a contract. He had showed Premier League potential in East London but he was hardly the marquee signing Newcastle fans craved.

Now with nearly 6 months of the season gone, Ba is looking like the signing of the season and his displays and goals are helping push boss Alan Pardew forward as a candidate for manager of the season. Newcastle lie in 7th place in the league and have been as high as 3rd. It is Ba who should take a large part of the credit for their cracking start, having been responsible for more than 50% of all their league goals. His rich vein of form rightly earned him player of the month for December.

He has impressed observers with his clinical finishing, boasting a 28% goal-to-shot ratio, which is second in the league only to Yakubu, what is more impressive is the variety of goals he has scored – he has scored tap-ins, rockets, penalties, free-kicks, headers, left foot, right foot. He has fired in a brace or better on four separate occasions and his opening goal against champions Manchester United earlier this month was a thing of beauty and surely a contender for goal of the month. However we shouldn’t really be surprised at Ba’s outstanding season as he’s always been a player who knows where the back of the net is. Remarkably Ba nearly ended up at Watford seven years ago only to see Ray Lewington sacked after his trial and find out he wasn’t in the plans of Aidy Boothroyd. Watford must rue letting him leave as he returned to his adopted homeland of France and thumped in 22 goals in just 26 appearances for Rouen.

1899 Hoffenheim of Germany took a punt on Ba’s fitness in 2007 after an injury-plagued time at Belgian club Mouscron and he became a fan’s favourite, scoring 40 goals in 103 appearances for the newly-promoted team. Injury problems resurfaced though in the summer of 2009 and a move to Stuttgart broke down after he failed a medical, a scenario that repeated itself as a move to the Potters was blocked because of fitness concerns.

Clearly he is a fragile player, but at the age of just 26 he should have his best years ahead and providing he can stay fit he will remain a thorn in the side of any opposing team. With the January transfer window in full swing it remains to be seen if the hotshot will stick around at the Sports Direct Arena (St. James’ Park). With a rumoured contract release fee of just £7million Ba isn’t short of admirers, especially at that price. Tottenham’s Harry Redknapp recently made his interest clear, while the Torres situation at Chelsea, combined with Drogba’s apparent desire to follow in the footsteps of Nicolas Anelka in leaving the club, has meant West London may also come calling. On Tuesday Ba told The Sun a switch to cash-rich Paris St-Germain would be ‘enticing’.

More pressing for Newcastle is the question of just who will fill the void left by Ba’s departure. Best is their next top scorer with just three and Cabaye next with two. The return of the immensely gifted Hatem Ben Arfa will have been heartily welcomed, but one would imagine Newcastle will be more concerned with bringing in another striker rather than losing their biggest asset.

Newcastle will not want to let Ba leave this month, but maybe helpless if his release clause is triggered or someone offers Ba a truck load of Strawberry, it would be a harsh club that would do that now rather than wait until summer. Newcastle fans are known to love loyalty and if Ba stays until at least the end of the season and fires more goals on his return, giving the boys in black and white a decent FA Cup run and hopefully a place in Europe next season, then he will command the respect of the Toon Army forever more.

This entry was posted in African Cup Of Nations, Emerging players, January Transfer Window, Player Profiles, Premier League, Transfer Deadline, Transfers. Bookmark the permalink.
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  1. Colin says:

    apparently man united are interested now. he reminds me a lot of louis saha. whens he fit hes deadly but seems liable to getting serious injuries. good read

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