BLACKBURN ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12: Steven Nzonzi of Blackburn and Leon Best of Newcastle battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United at Ewood Park on February 12 2011 in Blackburn England. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Newcastle United have accepted a £2 million bid from recently relegated Blackburn Rovers for striker Leon Best, according to The Mirror. The report notes that Best has yet to make a decision on whether or not to take the plunge back to the Championship in order to secure more playing time.
Leon Best joined Newcastle in the January transfer window of the 2009-10 (Championship) season but quickly fell out of favor with Chris Hughton as he failed to score in 13 appearances that season. He got his chance to start under Alan Pardew and was actually the first choice striker for a brief time in the post-Andy Carroll era, especially while Shola Ameobi was out injured. After recovering from his own injury, which cut his 2010-11 campaign short, Best was often paired with Demba Ba up front before injury once again struck and Papiss Cisse came over in January from SC Freiburg.
Though he has a maddening tendency to get caught offside several times a match, Leon Best is a capable striker who has held his own in the Premier League. He is a fine finisher and possesses just enough pace to be dangerous outside the box. You'll never confuse him with a Target Man, but he has been known to climb the ladder on occasion. That's really the problem with Leon Best: He does plenty of things well, but none of his skills are elite.
Best also has a bit of injury history, which will always be a concern, but two million pounds still strikes me as a bargain, especially for a player that qualifies as home grown. He was never going to be a threat to take over the #9 shirt, but as second-tier strikers go, one could do much worse. He's not quite 26, appears to still be improving his game, and has performed when given the opportunity.
Selling Best is probably not going to yield a major purchase in the transfer market for Newcastle, unless of course they're planning on taking the two million and adding it to yet another low-ball bid for Luuk De Jong. This team should frankly be adding squad depth instead of giving it away, but if another quality striker is brought in it will be hard to argue with the move. The optimistic (delusional?) side of me hopes that Alan Pardew's willingness to sell is indicative of a corresponding move on the horizon, but it is more than likely a case of grabbing whatever cash is available while freeing up an over-21 spot on the 25 man squad.
As for Leon, the offer represents an opportunity to play every week, though he'd have to do it in front of a crowd that's constantly protesting unpopular owners and manager, and that type of anger can easily be spilled out on players if they don't perform. Best spent the majority of his professional career bouncing from one Football League club to the next, and when he finally got his shot in the Premier League, he scored a hat-trick in his first month of playing. Returning to that level will be a shot to the pride, and as we know, instant promotion for relegated clubs is certainly not a guarantee. As it stands right this second, Leon Best is a Demba Ba knee injury (or release clause activation) away from a spot in Newcastle's Starting XI. Unless there's a significant pay raise involved (and have you seen Blackburn's financial statement?), my sense is that he will choose to stay. I would be fine with that.