Magpies deal on hold as France call up Ben Arfa
NEWCASTLE must hold their nerve if they hope to conclude a deal to bring Marseille winger Hatem Ben Arfa to St James' Park. The Magpies were confident that they had agreed an initial season's loan move for the player who is set to make a return to the France squad against Norway in Oslo this evening after two years in the international wilderness. Ben Arfa had been scheduled to fly to England later this week to put the finishing touches on his move that will cost about 800,000 Euros with a view to a £5m permanent transfer, but reports in France suggested the deal was facing a last-minute hitch. Chris Hughton is determined to add depth to his squad with James Perch the only one of his summer signings who is available for Monday's Premier League curtain-raiser at Manchester United. Marseille were planning to fund their bid for Sevilla striker Luis Fabiano by selling Ben Arfa's teammate Mamadou Niang with club president Jean-Claude Dassier admitting that left him reluctant to leave the club's attacking options depleted, confirming that it was not realistic to sell Ben Arfa and Diang. However, Marseille manager Didier Deschamps is believed to have resigned himself to losing the pacy Ben Arfa and will sanction his move to Newcastle despite late interest from Werder Bremen. The 23-year old is eager to complete the move to England, but his immediate aim is to impress recently-appointed France manager Laurent Blanc. The former Manchester United defender dropped all 23 of the players who made up Les Blues' World Cup party that endured a dismal campaign, plagued by in-fighting. The move has offered Ben Arfa a chance to stake a claim for regular international berth. The Newcastle target said: Laurent Blanc knows my qualities. I am very happy to find the national team. I'm aware of one thing: coming and going is not very interesting. What's important is building something solid. I wanted to participate in the World Cup. But I wonder what would have happened if I had been in South Africa. Once there was a story (about trouble in the camp) my name would have been mentioned. I would be labelled a troublemaker. I'm sure I would have been ranked among the leaders, even if I had nothing to do with all these stories.'' Hughton handed a trial to 17-year-old left-back Billy Knott in a behind-closeddoors friendly against St Mirren yesterday. The England youth international was released by Chelsea last season. Meanwhile, winger Jonas Gutierrez, is convinced Newcastle will comfortably hold their own in the Premier League this season. We start with two hard games against Manchester United and Aston Villa,'' added Gutierrez, in Ireland on international duty with Argentina. It's going to be a very hard, long league, but we are aiming to be in the middle of the table. You have a few teams who are very good, the big four, then Spurs, Aston Villa and Manchester City. But we know we have qualities and we are going to fight for the top places.''
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