Ba: I can leave Hoffenheim
Hoffenheim striker Demba Ba has contradicted his own club by claiming he is now free to join rivals Stuttgart. The Senegalese striker met with Hoffenheim's Ralf Rangnick and Jan Schindelmeiser on Thursday and it appeared he had been told to stay with the club, after general manager Schindelmeiser emerged saying he was "not interested in selling Demba".
But Ba told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper: "They agreed that I can go. They are obviously not happy about it, but they said they would do nothing more to stop me.
"I want to play in the (UEFA) Champions League. Stuttgart and Hoffenheim will now meet to resolve the transfer," he said.
Stuttgart have already expressed their desire to sign Ba, but they cooled off their interest when Hoffenheim owner Dietmar Hopp pronounced him not for sale at any price. Depending on who they listen to, Stuttgart may now revive their interest with a bid in excess of ten million euros for a man who scored 14 goals in his debut season in the top flight last year.
Ba remains their number one target to replace Mario Gomez, who they sold to Bayern Munich for over 30 million euros this summer.
Meanwhile, Hoffenheim have signed 18-year-old midfielder Franco Zuculini from Argentina's Racing Club Avellaneda for 4.7 million euros.
"Franco is a player full of talent and he has a lot of heart," said Schindelmeiser.
"Franco should come to Germany in a few days for final medical tests. We have agreed his contractual conditions with his father, though the deal has yet to be signed," he added.
Werder Bremen had also been tracking the youngster. Zuculini could be followed to Germany by his brother Bruno.