When Newcastle United signed Senegal international Demba Ba on a free transfer in the summer, it was naturally deemed an astute bit of business by the Magpies hierarchy.
Following West Ham’s relegation to the Championship last season, the 26-year-old striker was allowed to leave Upton Park for nothing with Newcastle the first in line to take full advantage.
During his short time in English football with the Hammers, Ba proved his goalscoring worth, netting seven in 12 appearances during his brief spell in east London.
However, it is his goalscoring form this season on Tyneside that has made the rest of the Premier League take note, with him surprising many throughout the first half of the campaign.
People were aware of Ba’s goal threat before his move to English football a year ago. He starred in the 1899 Hoffenheim side that were promoted to the Bundesliga in 2008 and then led the German top flight in their debut season at the Christmas break. Ba’s Hoffenheim finished in a respectable seventh that season, with the Senegal striker adding 14 more goals to his already impressive tally in Germany.
Ba quit the Bundesliga for Upton Park in January 2010, leaving Hoffenheim with a record of 40 goals in 103 games in all competitions.
His reputation was fast growing but following the striker’s performances in black and white this season many will admit they didn’t realise quite the player he could be.
Wednesday’s destruction of the Manchester United defence was the latest example of what Ba offers a team – strength, close control, sharp movement, an aerial threat and an eye for goal.
After scoring the opener at St James’ Park against the champions in mid-week Ba took his tally to 15 Premier League goals for the season, making him the league’s second top scorer behind Arsenal’s Robin van Persie (17).
If it’s possible to take a sour note from a resounding victory over a title contender it’s that it was Ba’s last game for Newcastle before he leaves for the African Cup of Nations, a competition which could see the striker absent from Tyneside for a month.
A manager obviously respects a player’s wish to represent his country, but that won’t help Alan Pardew when he’s left to pick a team without his leading marksman.
With respect to Senegal, Pardew will without doubt be hoping they fail to qualify from their group, which would end Ba’s participation in the tournament prematurely and see the Magpies striker return to Premier League action early.
Ba’s absence leaves the goalscoring burden very much on the shoulders of Shola Ameobi, Peter Lovenkrands and Leon Best, who worryingly only have four league goals between them.
The Geordie faithful have taken to their new Senegalese hero very quickly during his few months in the north-east. They will all offer Ba the best of luck during his African excursion but will have everything crossed he returns in peak condition, allowing him to continue where he left off on the scoring front.
Ba has been a short-term revelation on Tyneside and if he continues this form for the rest of the campaign and beyond, he will not only be a contender for the best signing of this season but will also have the platform to become a Newcastle great.