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Feb 7, 2013

Llambias: Toon to keep focus on France

Newcastle managing director Derek Llambias has confirmed the club will continue to exploit the foreign market for players as he says shopping for British talent is too costly. 

Moussa Sissoko
Newcastle have focused on French signings, such as Moussa Sissoko, of late

With long-term Newcastle target Wilfried Zaha moving to Manchester United for £15 million in January, Llambias concedes that too often English players do not fit into the club’s stringent financial budgets.

That has led Newcastle to do most of their transfer dealings in France in recent times. 

“At the end of the day it is a market which excites us,” he told the Evening Chronicle. “We have to explore other markets, though, which we do. We are still going to other markets. We keep an eye on the UK market too. British players are very expensive, which is a factor for us.

“What is fantastic about our fanbase and Newcastle is they are embracing it. Football is entertainment, it is passion. They know we have found a niche and they have bought into that.

“It is getting harder for us in France. One president of a club said: ‘What are you doing with all the French players?’ I said: ‘Eventually the national team will just send their plane to Newcastle and collect them from here!’ He laughed - while he was twisting my arm for more money!”

Llambias accepts Newcastle erred in failing to add to the squad in the summer, although he is pleased that they managed to withstand interest for their leading stars.

“We had a fantastic season last year,” he added. “It was way above our expectations. We worked really hard to keep our players. We had interest and pressure from agents and clubs wanting to buy some of our players. People perhaps do not realise it can be a difficult task to retain them all. We kept them and kept them happy.

“We brought Vurnon Anita, who I think is going to be a star. Then we had the horrendous injury list - and you cannot have a working model that is set up to withstand such a horrendous injury list. So we found ourselves in a worse position than we expected. We had too many top players out for too long.”

While there were a number of new arrivals at St James’ Park in January, there was also one notable departure, with Demba Ba moving on to Chelsea. Signed on a free transfer from West Ham, the striker netted 29 goals in 18-month period, but a release clause in his contract meant Newcastle were powerless to keep him.

“He [Ba] was offered a decent deal, in many eyes it would be a great deal, but it is what he wants,” Llambias said. “He is 28 and felt he had three or four years left and that is what he wants to do. I wish him well.

“You have to understand if you go back to the basics of the deal. We took a chance on Demba and Demba took a chance on us. It sounds like a song from Abba, the Abba deal! We sat down with his representatives and discussed his move from Hoffenheim to West Ham to Newcastle. However, there was that element for us which was his [knee] condition.

“People criticise us for the clause, but it was part of the gamble for Demba as well. Did he want to structure himself in a way where he would not be able to achieve what he wanted to achieve? Every player has that to consider. Maybe he wanted to prove himself, but for us I have no regrets on the Demba deal or Demba leaving. We have to move forward. He went out of the club his way, and we have replaced him.”

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