Newcastle United have been linked to Olympique Marseille centre-back Nicolas N'Koulou. The Mail believes Alan Pardew has settled on the 23-year-old as a potential replacement for club captain Fabricio Coloccini. The 31-year-old Argentina international is presently out injured with broken bones in his back and has not played since late February.
Coloccini was involved in a startling transfer saga in the mid-season window, when he demanded to be allowed to return home, on a free transfer, due to "personal" reasons. Predictably, given his importance to the team and the fact he is contracted to St James' Park till 2016, Pardew refused the request.
Since then, neither Coloccini nor Newcastle has raised the issue again. However, it is widely believed the defender will ask for a transfer in the summer and should that happen, the struggling Premier League club will need to find an adequate replacement before releasing one of their best players.
Pardew has signed a raft of French footballers over the past year, with as many as five Frenchmen joining the club in the winter transfer window. And that trend looks set to continue, with the reported interest in N'Koulou.
There is likely to be competition for the defender's signature though, with talkSPORT reporting interest in his services from Arsenal. Arsene Wenger is set for a major summer revamp of his playing squad and will have a reported £70m transfer kitty. The Gunners' need for a central defender is a combination of improving squad depth in that position and possibly also the need to replace Belgian Thomas Vermaelen, who has been linked with Barcelona.
The Mail indicates Marseille value N'Koulou at £18m but that is likely to be more than Newcastle can afford. In that case, there is the possibility of a player/cash deal, with club favourite Steven Taylor the possible bait. Just how well fans will receive that switch remains to be seen.
Finally, in addition to Newcastle and Arsenal, the Express believes Liverpool and Tottenham could also be interested in Nicolas N'Koulou. The Reds' are planning for life after veteran Jamie Carragher, who retires in the summer, while Spurs' boss Andre Villas-Boas is believed to be an admirer of N'Koulou's defensive abilities.