Belfast Telegraph

Best nears Newcastle exit

Striker Leon Best's stay at Newcastle could be drawing to a close with Blackburn having stepped up their interest.

Press Association Sport understands the 25-year-old Republic of Ireland international was due to undergo a medical with the Lancashire club on Monday.

Best, who joined the Magpies in a £1.2million switch from Coventry in February 2010, found his chances last season limited by injury and the form of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse.

Best arrived on Tyneside as then-manager Chris Hughton attempted to strengthen his team for their push for an immediate return to the Barclays Premier League. He made his debut in a 5-1 demolition of Cardiff, but did not manage to find the back of the net in 13 Championship appearances as Newcastle claimed the title.

Indeed, he had to wait almost 12 months for his first goal as injury wrecked the first half of the 2010-11 season, although he belatedly announced his arrival in style with a Premier League hat-trick in a 5-0 rout of West Ham on January 5 last year.

He contributed three more goals before the end of the campaign as the Magpies coped without Andy Carroll, whose £35million departure for Liverpool caused such consternation on Tyneside.

But the summer arrival of Ba, who plundered 15 goals before heading off on African Nations Cup duty with Senegal, and a subsequent 13-goal blast from Cisse saw him marginalised once again.

Ba's future at the club remains in some doubt amid speculation that a series of potential purchasers will attempt to activate a release clause in his contract, but the Magpies are themselves engaged in a concerted, if so far fruitless, pursuit of FC Twente's Luuk de Jong.

Newcastle are understood to be still some way away from meeting the Dutch club's valuation of their frontman - they are a good deal closer with Brazilian-born defender Douglas - but may be encouraged by his agent's claims that he will leave this summer despite manager Steve McClaren's understandable desire to keep hold of him.

Louis Laros told Voetbal International: "Luuk, the decision is taken. He wants to further develop into a bigger league. The important thing for us is the sporting perspective of Luuk. Not the money, but the way of playing and the amount of playing time he will get will be decisive. "


From Belfast Telegraph