Newcastle fan Jak Penny believes it is becoming 'inevitable' that Demba Ba will be sold by the Magpies - and he can see the sense behind it.
It was supposed to be the summer without a saga. But nothing ever seems to run swimmingly at Newcastle United. Jose Enrique kept Tyneside on a knife-edge with his 'will he-won't he' antics last season. And hogging the hearsay limelight this time around is Demba Ba.
Of course, it is the time of year that the hyperbole hurricane sweeps mercilessly through town, and Ba is currently situated right at the epicentre churning in a gloomy mist of idle conjecture. Another victim pulverized by the ruthless, unrelenting rumour mill.
Consequently for Newcastle, they've had to deal with the unsettling deluge of rumours that their 16-goal top scorer is prepared to abscond, with several 'reputable' news sources speculating that he would sign for Turkish side Galatasaray - reports that were swiftly denied by the club.
The notion of Ba leaving the club in the summer was once an unthinkable concept that would be met with a stinging rebuttal and, in rare cases, a tankard of Brown Ale cascading over your furrowed brow as your face is consumed by fiery Geordie indignation.
Keeping track of developments in this particular case has proved increasingly frustrating, with conflicting reports claiming Ba's departure is set in stone whilst others declare he's determined to stay at Newcastle, not forgetting the herd of agents who claim to speak on his behalf.
Alan Pardew, along with Ba, has attempted to bring about a semblance of clarity to the current situation in the past fortnight - with limited success. A bid to bring Andy Carroll back to the club naturally led to the former West Ham forward's future being plunged into fresh doubt. And whilst the bid for Carroll was ultimately rejected, it comes hot on the heels of a failed pursuit for Holland international Luuk de Jong.
The emphasis that Pardew has placed on signing a frontman during the summer transfer window must surely lead Ba to question where he stands with regards to his role in the team, especially given the positive results that came from the Newcastle manager's mid-season tactical tinkering and inspired shift to 4-3-3.
Furthermore, Papiss Cisse ended the season as the focal point of Newcastle's three-pronged attack as Ba was shunted away from his favoured position and into an unorthodox wide left role, which he carried out dutifully without a murmuring of discontent.
But towards the end of the campaign, you could see he was itching for a return to the mantle that saw him score regularly prior to the arrival of his Senegalese compatriot. However, on the rare occasions Pardew reverted back to 4-4-2, Ba failed to strike a strong enough chord with Cisse as he battled to nip a 14-game goal drought in the bud.
Whether he's prepared to make those sacrifices again is another question entirely. The presence of a fit-again Sylvain Marveaux combined with Shola Ameobi vying for a place adds further competition for Ba to contend with. That will only intensify should Pardew succeed in bringing a new striker in.
With that in mind, it's conceivable to suggest that the Newcastle hierarchy see Ba as a saleable asset out of the three senior strikers currently at St James' Park. Mike Ashley's cunning strategy of trading players at the peak of their respective price bracket, to the benefit of the club, has become the glowing touchstone of his five-year tenure.
A mere glance at the £35million sale of Carroll to Liverpool and shrewd reinvestment of the money demonstrates that Ashley and his right-hand man Derek Llambias are blessed with razor-sharp business acumen and a willingness to gamble away their blue chips when required.
Ba is no exception to the established protocol and there are solid grounds to selling him whilst there is still a significant profit to be made. Of course the well-publicised £7million release clause pales in comparison to the sum received for Carroll. But it would still generate a significant return on a player signed for free and who, at 27, is just outside their player blueprint and possesses a limited market value.
Ba's age and well-documented knee condition, which has been described as degenerative and potentially career threatening, will almost certainly count against him. Newcastle have had to deal with the financial burden of many a long-term injury victim down the years and must ask themselves whether they're prepared to risk a similar fate befalling Ba.
That lingering health concern, coupled with Ashley sticking to his policy of only renegotiating a player's deal when it has progressed into the second year, could lead Ba's multiple team of agents to force a move away from Tyneside as they chase another lucrative payday.
Sadly, it appears as if Ba is at the mercy of these representatives who, in a money-driven environment, are determined to squeeze every last penny from their client and will go to the lengths of touting his name around potential suitors. That could intensify this month as the clock ticks down towards the release clause's expiration date on July 31.
Additionally, the confusion as to who actually acts on Ba's behalf could lead to Ashley and Llambias sanctioning his departure given their inherent distaste for negotiating with agents and boardroom intermediaries primarily motivated by financial gain.
That being said, conjecture reigns supreme right now but it's hardly surprising that Ba is categorised as the most dispensable of the current squad. Ashley's tendency to course-correct any incomings at Newcastle places him in that bracket of vulnerability, especially now that Pardew is pushing his transfer window trolley down the striker aisle.
That reluctance to renegotiate Ba's contract once the existence of the release clause was broadcasted also speaks decibel-crunching volumes. Unease over his capacity to cope with the rigours of top-level football in the future, along with age and limited market value, leaves his departure edging closer and closer to the inevitable.
You can follow Jak on Twitter at @kajynnep.