London: Chelsea gained permission to hold transfer talks with striker Demba Ba after activating the release clause in his Newcastle contract as the London club sold Daniel Sturridge to Liverpool on Wednesday.
Chelsea have been looking to add the 27-year-old Ba to its strike force after seeing him score 13 goals this season to make him the English Premier League's second most prolific player. The Senegal international is halfway through a three-year Newcastle contract but Chelsea only had to offer 7.5 million pounds ($12.2 million) to trigger a release clause.
"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," Newcastle said in a statement. Ba's hopes of playing in England came close to collapsing in January 2011 when he failed a medical examination at Stoke because of knee problems.
But West Ham did decide to sign Ba from German club Hoffenheim and he spent six months at Upton Park before switching to Newcastle in June 2011 after the Hammers were relegated. Ba has scored 36 Premier League goals in two years, more than twice as many as potential new Chelsea teammate Fernando Torres in the same time.
The Spain striker, who joined Chelsea in January 2011 as Ba was arriving at West Ham, has netted just 14 league goals since then. Despite Torres rediscovering his goal-scoring touch since compatriot Rafa Benitez took charge of Chelsea in November, his game time could be curtailed if Ba successfully negotiates personal terms and signs.
Torres has started all 19 league matches so far this season. Heading into Wednesday's match against Queens Park Rangers, Chelsea were fourth, 14 points behind leader Manchester United with two games in hand. "We are trying to manage the team so when I can change Fernando I will do it," Benitez said. "We will try to manage him and hopefully we can do things properly.
"He wants the team winning games and he understands that is the way so he will accept this." Chelsea offloaded its first player in the January transfer window when Sturridge completed his move to Liverpool after less than three years at Stamford Bridge. The England striker, who also appeared for Britain at the London Olympics, has made just seven league appearances this season.