OLIVIER NTCHAM could still be on his way out of Celtic in the summer – if Newcastle renew their interest in the midfielder.
The French star, who cost Brendan Rodgers £4.5million in June 2017, will return to the Hoops after his January loan switch to Marseille flopped spectacularly.
Ntcham failed to make an impression with the Ligue 1 outfit and rarely featured in the last two months.
It was clear his heart was not in the Parkhead side’s bid for a historic tenth successive title which led to Neil Lennon allowing him to move to his homeland after the turn of the year.
Steve Bruce, the Tyneside club’s gaffer, was also tracking Ntcham before he agreed the move to France.
HIGHS…Olivier Ntcham slams the ball past Allan McGregor for the matchwinner in 2018.
LOWS…Olivier Ntcham lies crestfallen on the turf after missing a glorious chance in a game at Motherwell.
The Newcastle manager saw his team secure their Premier League status on Monday when Fulham lost to Burnley to join Sheffield United and West Brom in the drop into the Championship.
Bruce is now looking to a summer revamp and he could come back in for Ntcham, who will be out of contract next summer.
The St James’s Park boss is set for discussions with managing director Lee Charnley and owner Mike Ashley over contracts and transfers.
Like Celtic, they are facing a massive overhaul during the pre-season and players such as Dwight Gayle, a one-time Hoops target, Andy Carroll, Federico Fernandez and Paul Dummett will be free agents next month.
Bruce, speaking to the local media, admitted the talks with the club supremos will be centred on what he has to spend in taking the club to a level that is acceptable to their fans.
OLI OOPS…Olivier Ntcham poses happily with the Marseille shirt after agreeing a loan switch in January.
Asked about what will be discussed in the summit talks, he answered: “Players out of contract, Bosman situations and then, of course, what we’ve got and where we want to take the club will be the big conversation.
“There’s an insatiable appetite from the supporters to be in the top 10 – that’s where we all want to be.
“Slowly but surely will have to get a squad together that the supporters can enjoy.”
Everton and Southampton were also linked with 25-year-old Ntcham last summer, but it was decided to keep the former Manchester City ace in such an important campaign. However, the ex-Under-21 prospect started only 11 games and scored a solitary goal before his disastrous and ill-fated move to Marseille where head coach Andre Villa-Boas made it clear he did NOT want the player.
The Portuguese gaffer, who has managed Spurs and Chelsea on his travels, threatened to quit before he was sacked 48 hours later.
FRENCH FARCE…Olivier Ntcham looks dismayed in a rare appearance for the Ligue 1 outfit.
Former Hoops striker Chris Sutton joined the debate, as CQN reported earlier this month.
He said: “Olivier Ntcham was a puzzle when he was at Celtic. He’s almost as much of a conundrum now he’s returning.
“But having seen the grass is not greener away from Glasgow, Ntcham could help solve a big problem. The big question is: Does he want to? Can he be bothered?
“If he can look a new manager in the eye and say he’s realised how good it is to be a Celtic player and that he wants to try to deliver his peak, it’s an interesting scenario.
“Listen, we’ve seen examples for years of players thinking life is better away from Celtic and Scottish football then realising how good they had it in Glasgow when they left.
“Ntcham appeared a perfect example. He irritated both Brendan Rodgers and Neil Lennon with interviews in his homeland talking about moving when he was a Celtic player. He was agitating.
WHOOPS IN THE HOOPS…Olivier Ntcham performs a somersault much to the amazement of Scott Brown after scoring against Motherwell in the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden in 2018.
“Anyone could see his mind was in other countries for the two years before he was eventually punted out on loan. But the guy is 25. He’s at a perfect stage of his career to be a real force. Ntcham has dominated games against Rangers and has shown he can be top class when his mind is on the job. That was the problem half the time.
“They were talking about figures of maybe £8.5million from Marseille if he impressed the French. After what has happened to him in the last five months, they’re not going to pay £8.50.”
Ntcham’s form dipped so alarmingly in France that one newspaper cited the concern displayed by new chief Jorge Sampaoli over the Celt’s contribution.
Harshly, they stated: “All you have to do is watch the behaviour of the former Atlético Mineiro manager. He was on the verge of a stroke every time the ball went towards Ntcham’s feet.”
Eddie Howe, or whoever is named new Celtic gaffer, may already have ideas for the player, but, in or out of Parkhead, the forthcoming campaign will be crucial for Ntcham.