Newcastle terminate Babayaro contract

December 11, 2007

Celestine Babayaro's departure from Newcastle United severed one of the last remaining links with Graeme Souness' ill-fated reign at St James' Park.

The Scot invested around £50million in new signings - some of it offset by the sales of Craig Bellamy and Jermaine Jenas, Andy O'Brien and Aaron Hughes - during his tumultuous 17 months on Tyneside, recruiting 11 players as he reshaped his squad.

But, less than two years after his departure, only two remain at the club, and neither of them started Saturday's 2-1 Premier League victory over Birmingham.

Babayaro, 29, became the latest Souness recruit to head for the exit at St James' this week when the club agreed to pay up his contract, which was due to run until the end of the current campaign.

He lasted longer than many of the former Blackburn manager's other signings who were swiftly shown the door by successors Glenn Roeder and Sam Allardyce.

The two survivors are England striker Michael Owen, a £17million acquisition from Real Madrid who has managed only 25 appearances in almost 28 months because of a succession of injuries, and £3.8million Turkey midfielder Emre.

But Ronny Johnsen, Babayaro, Jean-Alain Boumsong, Amdy Faye, Scott Parker, Craig Moore, Lee Clark, Albert Luque and Nolberto Solano have all moved on with the club recouping a little over £14million of their total investment.

The unattached Johnsen was brought in on a short-term contract to provide defensive cover, while the likes of Moore and Clark arrived on free transfers - the Australian being released and his Geordie counterpart being elevated to the club's coaching staff before following Roeder to Norwich earlier this season.

Solano was allowed to join West Ham on a free for family reasons after giving sterling service in his two spells at St James', while Charlton matched the £2million the Magpies had paid Portsmouth for Faye.

They were, however, forced to take massive losses on the two most spectacular failures on Souness' buying record, Boumsong and Luque.

The France defender endured a disastrous spell on Tyneside, making a nonsense of the £8million Newcastle paid Rangers for his services despite the manager's assurances that he would prove himself a top-class defender.

There were gasps of astonishment when Juventus paid them £3.3million for his services during the summer of 2006 with his stock having plummeted.

However, Spaniard Luque is perhaps remembered even less favourably after a dreadful spell in England, with the final goal in a 4-1 derby victory at Sunderland arguably the only high point of his stay.

He was eventually sold to Dutch side Ajax for £2million after managing just 34 appearances in two years.

With Owen's future the subject of continuing speculation - Manchester City boss Sven-Goran Eriksson has been repeatedly linked with the striker who performed such heroics for him during his spell with England - reminders of Souness' time in charge are fading rapidly.