Chelsea were yesterday in negotiations with the representatives of Newcastle United's Demba Ba over a move for the Senegalese striker, whose manager Alan Pardew admits that he is powerless to keep him at St James' Park.
Interim manager Rafael Benitez was coy about Chelsea's move for the 27-year-old, who is needed as support for Fernando Torres, with Daniel Sturridge expected to move to Liverpool. The £7 million ($13.7 million) buy-out clause in Ba's contract poses a major problem to Newcastle, who are desperate to keep the player as their struggle to build on last season continued with a 3-7 defeat at Arsenal.
"Of course [it's a problem], but Demba is really out of my hands and there's nothing I can do about it. What will be will be," Pardew said.
The move for Ba comes as Chelsea show signs that the new interim manager Benitez is having a material affect on the team. An excellent 2-1 win against a fiercely competitive Everton side who had not lost at home since March, extends the Spaniard's winning run in domestic football to six games.
Frank Lampard's two goals also reinforced his desire to stay beyond this summer, when his contract expires. The 34-year-old said last night that he did not know what the New Year would bring for him.
"I keep trying to give my best, as I've always done when I'm here, and I'll continue to do so. I'm enjoying playing again. I was injured for a while. I know there is a lot of speculation and talk but, for me, the enjoyable bit is being out there."
The Chelsea fans sang "sign him on" after Lampard's goals.
However, Benitez refused to offer Lampard any assurances.
"He's a great player. My job is to keep him fit and if he can score more goals that will be great."
As regards the possibility of signing Ba, Benitez said: "We do not talk about our business in public."
Although Chelsea look like a side with the potential to challenge for the title, Benitez played down such talk: "Our idea is to approach the competition thinking one game at a time. We are not watching the table too much. We will see where we are after some more games.