Is former Newcastle regular set for summer exit door after surprise rise of powerhouse?
While Newcastle United fans will no doubt be delighted with the impressive, if somewhat surprising, rise of powerhouse midfielder Mohamed Diame, there is one man who may well be ruing his luck.
The Senegalese star began the campaign pretty much at the bottom of a four man pile in the fight for a role in the starting XI, with Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden joined by summer arrival Mikel Merino in the pecking order.
However, injuries saw the 30-year-old handed more and more game time, much to the Toon Army’s displeasure, but his impressive form mean he is now a first choice for Rafael Benitez, working in tandem alongside Shelvey to dominate the centre of the park against Manchester United on Sunday.
So where exactly does this leave the other duo of midfield stars at St James’ Park?
Merino started brightly but has faded, hence his drop from starting XI to the bench, but much of that can be attributed to a back injury which he does not seem to have recovered from fully, plus, with the 21-year-old having a five-year-contract under his belt, he has time on his side to battle his way back into the first team reckoning.
Which leaves just Hayden, and the former Arsenal man may well be feeling a little concerned by what he is seeing from Diame.
After starting the season as a regular, he has found game time more and more difficult to come by, with a fleeting number of starts scattered among a handful of substitute appearances.
His midfield counterpart, who was used as an attacking midfielder earlier in the campaign, has taken his role as central enforcer, and does it much better than Hayden has managed to show in his debut Premier League campaign.
At 22-years-old and with a contract until 2021, an exit looks unlikely, but he certainly has a fight on his hands to prove himself going forward, and to add to the 15 top flight starts to his name.
If he loses that fight, then he could well be faced with a summer departure if Benitez looks to improve the quality of his squad, and there will be a host of clubs keen on taking him on after his impressive displays in the Championship.
In other Newcastle United transfer news, the club are set to secure a £5.2million capture of an international star in summer.