DEMBA Ba's Newcastle exit moved a step closer this afternoon when Chelsea finally triggered the release-clause in his contract.
The Blues have been given permission to talk to the 27-year-old Senegal international after meeting the £7million figure stipulated in the deal he signed with the Magpies during the summer of 2011.
"The club has given the player permission to speak to Chelsea FC and therefore he will not be included in the squad for tonight's game against Everton."
The move comes as little surprise after the Londoners held talks with the player's representatives at the weekend.
Those discussions were later described as "unproductive", but there was a feeling at the time that that would not be the end of the matter.
Newcastle have tried unsuccessfully to renegotiate Ba's contract in recent months to prevent a repeat of the speculation which surrounded him during the summer.
However, with the former Hoffenheim and West Ham frontman's representatives actively trying to move him on - Magpies boss Alan Pardew hit out earlier this week at the network of people purporting to be looking after the player - Newcastle's hopes of securing him on a firmer footing always looked doomed.
Ba has been a major hit on Tyneside. He scored 16 goals last season and took his tally for the current campaign to 13 with a double in the 7-3 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday.
Pardew was desperate to keep him, however the club were not prepared to shatter their wage structure to accommodate his demands.
The initial three-year contract was complicated in its structure with Newcastle looking to protect themselves after Ba had earlier failed a medical at Stoke because of a chronic knee condition, while the player kept his options open.
He has now opted to consider the alternatives, although it remains to be seen if Chelsea are prepared to give him what he wants with any deal sure to cost them way in excess of £7million even before his salary is taken into account.
The Magpies will receive only a proportion of the transfer fee should the transfer go through, but have actively been pursuing a replacement in recent weeks with Marseille's Loic Remy understood to be at the top of their list.
In the short term, Ba's compatriot Papiss Cisse appeared likely to return to the central role in which he prospered so spectacularly during the second half of last season, as Pardew's men attempt to improve upon a run of just two victories in their last 11 league games.