Following the recent Twitter poll, Demba Ba makes up our fourth edition of ‘Where are they now?’. The Senegalese lit up the Premier League during his time in the North East, here we will take a look where he is now.
Signing for Newcastle United
Demba Ba grew up in Paris, and spent a large portion of his childhood playing football alongside six other siblings. When attempting to start his footballing career he initially faced multiple rejections. Firstly, while in France Ba failed trials at both Auxuerre and Lyon before trying to forge his career in England. Here he attended trials at Gillingham, Barnsley and Swansea City but again failed to make the required impression.
Despite receiving multiple knockbacks at a young age, Ba returned to France and eventually signed for fourth division side, Rouen. He enjoyed a very successful debut season at the club, leading the frontline and notching 22 goals in 26 games.
The Senegalese then proceeded to make a move across the border and signed for Belgian club Mouscron. It did not take Ba long to settle, scoring in all of his first 3 games before suffering a long-term injury to his tibia, which kept the striker sidelined for 8 months. Once recovering from this injury, his impressive goal scoring performances continued, racking up a further 7 goals in 9 games.
After impressing at two European clubs, Ba continued his European journey and signed for Hoffenheim during the 2007/08 season for £3 million. At the time of signing Hoffenheim was in the German second division, but following a brilliant season, in which Ba contributed 14 goals, and missing just 1 game, they achieved promotion to the first division, the Bundesliga.
Ba then maintained his efficiency in front of goal in the German top flight, before Stutggart came in with an offer. Ba attended the medical with the intention of signing for the German rivals, however medical examinations highlighted problems in his knee, possibly resulting from the injury he suffered in Belgium. He then signed a contract extension with Hoffenheim ensuring he notched up 97 appearances and 37 goals for the club.
Leaving the club for disputed reasons in 2011, Ba attempted to force through a move to Premier League team West Ham United. His parent club believed the Senegalese had broken terms in his contract when forcing through a move to the Hammers, and so threatened to heavily fine or even cancel the contract binding the player and club. These actions then resulted in the move to London breaking down.
After the transfer to West Ham capitulated, Premier League team offered £7.1 million for the striker. The transfer offer was accepted, however Ba yet again failed a medical examination. It is unconfirmed, but almost certain that the tibia injury which Ba suffered had a permanent effect on his knee.
After a hectic series of events, West Ham United renewed their interest in the player, and a pay as you play contract was agreed upon. During his time at Upton Park, Ba netted 7 goals in 12 games. This impressive individual return could not prevent the club sliding down into the Championship and subsequently triggering a release in his contract, allowing the player to depart for free.
Upon joining the North East club it did not take Ba long to re-discover his goal-scoring from, netting two hatricks, one against Blackburn Rovers, and another away at Stoke. This took the Senegalese’s record to 8 goals in the clubs opening 11 games, placing us 3rd in the league.
Ba’s ability in front of goal ensured Newcastle were maintaining a formidable campaign, occupying a European place even in January.
It was in January that the attacker went off to represent his nation in the African Cup of Nations. Being second in the league goal-scoring charts, just behind Robin Van Persie, the presence of the Senegalese was missed and we saw a slight drop in results.
During this awkward patch for the Magpies, further investment was made in our attacking line-up with national compatriot Papiss Cisse being brought in.
Fortunately for Newcastle, Senegal suffered an early exit from the tournament and the striking partnership returned to Tyneside.
Ba scored instantly on his return to the North East, netting in a 2-1 win against Aston Villa, however this remained his last goal of the season as he was shifted out to the left, in order to utilize Cisse through the middle of the attack. This decision seemed unfair for Ba, but when you remember the form of Cisse, there could be no argument. During this period, everything Cisse touched turned into goals including the absolute wonder goal against Chelsea, the long range volley against Southampton, and the beautiful goal against Swansea while almost on the floor.
It was no secret that there was a £7 million release clause in Demba Ba’s contract, and this was duly triggered by Chelsea in Janauary 2013. Alan Pardew commented that the transfer was done and Ba would make is move to London with our blessings.
It was a truly magnificent time for the Toon Army while Ba was wearing black and white.
Where have they been?
Upsetting his usual trend Ba did not immediately settle into his new surroundings at Stamford Bridge and it was not until the following season in which Ba came to life in front of goal. During his time at Chelsea he mustered 7 goals in 33 games , not a huge tally however did include some vital ones.
Who can forget that Gerrard slip. The Ba goal. The Liverpool crumble. The Senegalese picked up the ball as Steven Gerrard had slipped while receiving the ball at the back for Liverpool. The attacker then had a smimple run at goal and slipped it past the Liverpool keeper to end their title hopes.
Ba also scored a dramatic late goal in the Champions League against PSG to earn the club a place in the Semi-Final. His Chelsea career seemed to begin gaining momentum until Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres joined the club, pushing him down the pecking order
After being linked with Newcastle, West Ham, and Arsenal Ba then made the move to Turkish club Besiktas.
His spell in Turkey appeared an enjoyable one, netting 18 goals in 29 games, with 5 goals coming from 5 straight European games. His confidence was highlighted when he returned to England in a European tie and attempted to catch out Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny straight from the kick-off.
Following his spell in Turkey, Ba then jetted off to the Chinese Super League. At this moment in time China was offering the worlds largest footballing salaries, but opposed to players like Carlos Tevez, who admitted he was in China to cash in his last pay check, while it felt like he was on holiday, Ba maintained his high performances.
Ba earned accolades of the Most Valuable Player, while also being the Chinese Cup top scorer. His second year in China was going excellently as he had 14 goals next to his name, in just 18 appearances. This was until he suffered a leg-breaking injury, with coach Gregorio Manzano predicting it could end his footballing career. The attacker then underwent surgery and was told he could be playing football in the next few months.
The Senegalese’s travels did not end here. A move back to Besiktas was then followed with a free transfer to Goztepe. He then went full circle and returned to Shanghai Shenhua in which he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win on his debut.
Ba can now be found back in Turkey playing for Istanbul Basaksehir where he has scored 12 goals in 25 games.
Was the grass greener?
No – It might be a controversial opinion, considering Ba went on to play for Chelsea in the Champions League, while earning huge money in China, but I do believe things would’ve turned out better if he stayed in Tyneside. Admittedly, Cisse did steal the limelight when arriving in the North East, if Ba had stayed at the club, who knows we could have stayed competing towards the top end of the table, while he personally could have become a somewhat legendary figure at St James Park.
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