By Will Butcher
Former Gent goalkeeper Matz Sels has revealed that he turned down offers from the Premier League to join Newcastle.
The 24-year-old was the first signing in manager Rafa Benitez’s revolution this summer, signing for around £4.5million after an impressive spell in Belgium.
Talking to the Shields Gazette, the former Lierse SK goalkeeper was interesting Southampton and Middlesbrough, but chose Newcastle after holding talks with former Real Madrid manager Benitez.
Sels put pen to paper on a five-year deal at St. James’ Park and could start between the sticks against Fulham on Friday night as Newcastle begin their Championship campaign.
“There was also a few teams from the Premier League that was interested, but Newcastle is a really big club,” said Sels. “It’s strange that they were relegated, but that’s football.
“I heard about the interest from Newcastle, had a talk with Rafa Benitez and was convinced of my choice.”
The former Belgium under-21 international is set to rival three other goalkeepers for the no.1 jersey on Tyneside, with Tim Krul, Karl Darlow and Rob Elliot all vying for a starting place.
But Sels, who has been handed the number 28 shirt, is fully focused on returning the Magpies to the top-flight.
“It’s a team that doesn’t belong in the second division,” he said. “Normally, it’s always a Premier League team – a top club in the Premier League. I was convinced of my choice.”
Sels is yet to earn an international cap for his country, but he was in the Euro 2016 preliminary squad before he narrowly missed the final cut.
The shot-stopper starred for Gent in the recently completed season, making 53 appearances in all competitions and conceding just 57 goals.
In other Newcastle news, a huge crowd turned up to see the Magpies new signings on display in training.