CHELSEA’S hopes of signing Newcastle striker Demba Ba have suffered an early blow after unproductive discussions over his future.
Press Association Sport understands club officials met the 27-year-old's representatives last night, but that the deal on the table did not come close to meeting the point where he would consider leaving St James' Park.
However, while the Ba camp has indicated that the Senegal international does not now expect to be playing his football at Stamford Bridge next month, it is likely that the impasse represents only the initial skirmish in a battle which could run and run.
The Blues are among a series of clubs to have been linked with the former West Ham frontman, who scored his 12th and 13th goals of the season at Arsenal on Saturday, with the £7million release-clause in his contract due to become active once again tomorrow.
However as yet, the Magpies insist they are yet to receive a bid that would trigger that clause.
The deal Ba signed when he joined Newcastle during the summer of 2011 was intensely complicated as a result of the medical condition of his knee, and they have spent recent months attempting to renegotiate it.
However, the two sides have been unable to reach agreement and with the player's network of representatives clearly active behind the scenes, the waters are becoming increasingly muddied by the day.
What is clear is that any deal would cost significantly more than £7million when signing on and agent fees, as well as a lucrative wage packet, are taken into consideration.
Magpies boss Alan Pardew is keen to retain the services of a man who scored 16 goals last season and insists he has never received any indication from the player that he wants to leave.
But the lure of Champions League football and a significantly more lucrative weekly salary could yet prove decisive.