Noel Whelan has claimed Ross Barkley has “his best years to come” but Newcastle United face an uphill battle to sign the midfielder this summer.

The former Leeds United forward, speaking exclusively to Football Insider correspondent Dylan Childs, encouraged the Magpies to sign “a core of British players” if there is to be a recruitment drive post-takeover.

The Telegraph reported that Rafael Benitez is interested in returning to St. James’ Park if a takeover is completed and wants Ross Barkley and John Stones to join him.

Football Insider revealed that Barkley, 26, is happy and settled in London and is confident of establishing himself as a key man in Frank Lampard’s Chelsea side.

Whelan claimed Lampard will want to keep hold of the England international as the Blues look to challenge for silverware next season.

“Frank will want to keep as many players as possible,” he told Football Insider.

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“Ross is at a very good age and his best is still to come so it is difficult.

“If Frank let him go he would only do it if he felt that he had younger and better players at the club. You would not let go of a Ross Barkley, who has already played a lot of football this season, without knowing you have got that backup there.

“When you look at the most successful clubs in Premier League history, they have had a core of British players. It is important and it is right to do that.

“They cannot saturate the club with foreign players.”   

Barkley has scored three goals and provided four assists in his 20 appearances this season.

The attacking midfielder still has three years remaining on his contract at Stamford Bridge.

In other Newcastle United news, Paul Robinson has told Football Insider Mauricio Pochettino would “jump at the chance” to return to management.