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Newcastle are small says Ba

Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 8:45am IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
Chelsea's new signing takes a swipe at his former club. Benitez dismisses fears over striker's fitness record.

Demba Ba announced his arrival at Chelsea on Friday with the confident, if undiplomatic declaration that he believed he had moved into a completely new league from the one he inhabited at West Ham and Newcastle.

The Senegalese striker's old employers might not have appreciated his absent-minded farewell shot that neither club could compare with the European champions but, as he took his bow at Chelsea's training ground in Cobham, Ba made it clear that he felt he really had finally hit the big-time.

While Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez brushed aside any fears over Ba's fitness and any qualms about his perceived lack of loyalty to Newcastle, while insisting his arrival could only inspire healthy competition with Fernando Torres, the new 7.5 million pounds man was ready to be plunged straight into the fray in today's FA Cup third-round tie at Southampton after his first training session with the squad.

Ba, already hardly the flavour of the month on Tyneside where he has been widely viewed as a selfish mercenary, did at least tip his hat to Newcastle's distinguished history during his first interview for Chelsea's official website but still could not help making them sound a bit like Fergie's "wee club in the North East".

Asked whether he could settle as quickly as he had at his previous clubs in his new pounds 75,000-a-week role, Ba said: "Hopefully I can do the same here, it would be good. This club is at another level, it isn't West Ham or Newcastle. They are both big clubs with a strong history, but Chelsea is Chelsea and you cannot compare. It will be easier with world-class players around, who make the football look so easy.

"When the club who won the Champions League wants you, the decision making is very easy. This club is massive and that helped the decision a lot. It was not a hard one."

The French-born Ba made it sound as if this was the culmination of a great, emotional stop-start journey, one which began in the Parisian suburbs, took in the bargain basement of French football and at one point looked likely to be derailed by a chronic knee injury that prompted Stoke to pull out of signing him.

"I never lost belief in my football though, never. You keep working and things come. Rewards always come," he said. "Yesterday I was looking back and smiling to myself, saying, 'Yes, I've done it'. I feel very proud, not only for me but the people who supported me over the years, like my mum, because when I skipped school she was afraid. But today I am very proud for my family."

Benitez expects immediate results from the new acquisition. "He scores, can hold up the ball, he can pass, has good movement and is good in the air. As a striker, everything you are looking for," was his verdict.

And that supposedly dodgy right knee? "I was watching both knees today and I couldn't see any difference!" laughed Benitez, who after his first close-up look was even more convinced there was no risk.

No risk, either, of making Torres feel a bit sulky again just when he had seemingly begun to enjoy a new lease of life as Benitez's main man? "Torres will be happy with good players around. I think Demba Ba is a good option for us and hopefully it will be good for both."

Benitez believes the pair could play together - as does Ba himself - but it will clearly not be his preferred option to use him as the second striker when he sees him as a pure nine. "He gives us different options. We can manage and maybe give Fernando a rest although in terms of fitness, he [Torres] is fine.

"Two strikers [in the squad] should be enough for us, as we have other players around who can contribute. Our situation is better than two days ago. We also have Hazard, Oscar, Mata, Victor Moses and Lucas Piazon - players who can play as a second striker or wingers and score goals. Demba could start against Southampton, but we will see."

The coach's first impressions of Ba have been positive after all the flak flying around on Tyneside about the clumsy exit strategy of the player and his agents. "I think that's he a good professional," said Benitez.

Ba himself made his philosophy clear to Chelsea TV. "I just give everything for the shirt, for the club and the fans because they deserve it. It doesn't matter if it's a small club or a big one, I have to give 100 per cent and that's what I'm going to do."

The new boy is itching to help get Chelsea's show back on the road with a Cup win following the shocking loss to QPR. "I played Southampton recently and we had a bad experience," said Ba, recalling Newcastle's 2-0 defeat at St Mary's in November. "Hopefully if I am part of the squad, it will be another story this time."
 


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