Given Newcastle’s below-par campaign last season and the promise of competing for a place in the top four and the subsequent reward of Champions League football in the capital, Demba Ba’s decision to leave St James’ Park to sign for Chelsea in January was understandable. However, with a change in manager and increased competition for places in the west London club’s attack, the African forward may now wish he was still turning out for Alan Pardew’s men.
Playing up front for Chelsea with the likes of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar creating chances for you is something that most strikers can only dream of. However, with it comes a world of expectation, with the incumbent expected to hit the back of the net with the sufficient regularity to fire the club into Premier League and Champions League contention.
In the second half of last season Ba had the fading force that is Fernando Torres as his main opposition for the lone striker role in Rafael Benitez’s Chelsea side. The Senegalese hitman made 14 appearances for his new club, scoring twice in the process, and on occasion looked like a more-rounded option than the misfiring Spaniard.
However, with Benitez being replaced by José Mourinho this summer, the goalposts have been moved for the former Newcastle man. Belgian prodigy Romelu Lukaku has returned to the club after banging in 17 Premier League goals on loan at West Brom last term, while the club have had two offers for Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney rejected this summer.
Ba was a spectator from the Chelsea bench on Sunday as the Blues beat Hull 2-0 at Stamford Bridge, with Torres starting and Lukaku replacing him in the second half. As the situation lies, the African does not look likely to get much game time. However Mourinho’s comments in the aftermath of the game when asked about the likelihood of a third bid for Rooney are as good as a nail in the coffin for Ba’s career at Chelsea while the Portuguese coach is at the helm.
“We will try till the last day to add a new player to the squad,” he said.
“A striker. But in this moment every striker has a club. Every striker belongs to somebody. And I don’t think it’s ethical I name players who belong to other clubs.
“But you know which players we can sniff a situation with and always in an ethical way. If we have to make a bid, we make it in an official way. We don’t speak to players but to clubs. We don’t try to influence players to behave in a certain way, as other clubs do. We behave in the correct manner and we’ll try for that until the last day of the transfer window.”
Ba’s time at Newcastle was in stark contrast to the season of inactivity that appears to lie ahead for the attacker. The 28-year-old played a significant role in the Magpies’ fifth-placed finish in 2011-12, scoring 16 goals in a campaign that the Toon faithful will remember for some time. Indeed, Ba also managed 13 Premier League goals in an underperforming team in the first half of last season.
Ba’s goalscoring exploits in 2011-12 were curtailed after the arrival of countryman Papiss Cisse in the January transfer window, as the new man hogged the limelight and the goals in the second half of Newcastle’s season. A release clause in his Newcastle contract allowed for an escape route last term, but does Ba regret leaving now?
Six months into a three-and-a-half year contract at the London club and all of a sudden he may well be fourth in line for the solitary striking berth if Mourinho gets his transfer wish.
In contrast, Newcastle have been searching far and wide to find a new strike partner for Cisse, with a loan deal for the injured Loic Remy the only solution to date.
With an adoring St James’ faithful worshipping Ba before he opted to make his exit, and his national compatriot to combine with in the team’s forward line, he may well wish that he had opted for a new clause-less contract in the North East rather than the suddenly not-so-appealing prospect of warming the Chelsea bench in the capital.