Newcastle wait on Andy Carroll
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew was today maintaining a watching brief after his club re-ignited the debate over Andy Carroll's future.
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The Magpies, undaunted by Liverpool's swift rejection of their bid to sign the 23-year-old England striker on a season-long loan deal with a view to a permanent move, will maintain their interest in a player who finds himself engulfed in uncertainty as he prepares to return for pre-season training.
Liverpool jetted off on their North American tour on Monday - Carroll is due to join them early next week after an extended holiday - and are only prepared to consider a permanent transfer for a man who cost them £35million when they managed to prise him away from the Tyneside club in January last year.
However, sources close to the player have indicated that he remains keen to prove himself at Anfield despite new manager Brendan Rodgers' misgivings, although he would entertain the right loan move.
Newcastle would fit the bill - Gateshead-born Carroll made his name at St James' Park after emerging from the ranks to establish himself as a genuine first-teamer under former boss Chris Hughton, and is understood to prefer a return rather than a mooted move to West Ham or AC Milan.
Should the Reds remain firm in their stance, the prospect of the Magpies becoming embroiled in a bidding war for their former player seems unlikely.
Owner Mike Ashley and managing director Derek Llambias have run the club on tight financial lines in recent seasons and have consistently refused to pay over the odds for their targets.
Already this summer, they have moved on from their pursuit of FC Twente's Luuk de Jong after being quoted around £16million for a man they valued at around £10million.
Their initial approach for Carroll, whose £80,000-a-week wage packet dwarfs anything currently on offer at Newcastle, is thought to amount to barely a third of the fee they received from Liverpool in the first place, and just how big a hit the Merseysiders are prepared to take is a matter for debate.
But the alternative, retaining the services of an unhappy player with four years remaining on his contract, could prove equally unpalatable with Rodgers clearly not preparing to build his team around him as predecessor Kenny Dalglish had planned to.
In the meantime, the Magpies will sit back and await developments, confident that they have lit the blue touch-paper and forced Liverpool to show their hand, poised to move again should they be prepared to do business within the confines of their financial framework.
Whatever transpires on that front, Pardew will be keen to strengthen his striking department with uncertainty remaining over Demba Ba's future and Leon Best and Peter Lovenkrands having left the club this summer.
Ba's situation is likely to come to a head one way or another at the end of this month with the release-clause which would allow him to leave the club for just £7million due to expire on July 31.
After that date, any prospective buyer would have to come up with more than double that figure to secure his services.
Pardew, understandably, does not want to lose the Senegal international, who was last season's leading scorer with 16 goals, and Ba himself has repeatedly spoken of his desire to remain on Tyneside.
But the persistent speculation over his situation suggests that forces are at play elsewhere, and the Newcastle manager faces an anxious wait.
Should the former Hoffenheim and West Ham frontman remain with the club, Pardew could once again lose he and compatriot Papiss Cisse to the African Nations Cup, which takes place in South Africa in January.
Ba was not unduly missed during last year's tournament as he and Cisse, who signed for the Magpies before joining up with the national team, returned swiftly with Senegal enduring a disappointing competition.
However, the former scored only once after arriving back at his club, which was a concern for Pardew, whose decision to play him on the left side of a three-man attack to accommodate the newcomer, may also have had an impact on that front.