By Tom Blackburn

Former Newcastle midfielder Chris Waddle has called for fans to lay off sought-after midfielder Moussa Sissoko.

Football Insider reported earlier on Tuesday that manager Rafa Benitez had reiterated his desire to keep Moussa Sissoko at St James’ Park.

In an interview with the Newcastle Chronicle, Waddle said it wasn’t fair for fans to chastise Sissoko for wanting to further his career.

Waddle dismissed the idea that his performances this summer for France have been purely motivated by the prospect of a transfer.

“He’s playing for his country, not a move,” said Waddle said, who also refused to blame Sissoko for the Magpies’ second-tier status next season.

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“It’s not just down to him. I think there are many more reasons as to why Newcastle got relegated than Moussa Sissoko.

“He’s not a match-winner. He’s an honest player. He’s not a great goalscorer so I wouldn’t say Newcastle’s downfall last season was purely down to him.

“Some players want to play in the Premier League. If Sissoko plays well at this tournament and gets a move for it, then fair play to the lad.”

It has been reported that the Magpies have slapped a new £35m valuation on the Frenchman, who has been linked with Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester United.

Were Newcastle to command a £35million fee it would equal a club record transfer fee in terms of cash received, with Andy Carroll sold for the same figure in 2011 to Liverpool.

The attacking midfielder was a mainstay of the team last season and was named captain by Rafael Benitez for the final matches of the campaign.

However, he scored just one goal from 39 appearances and 3,402 minutes of action, a poor return for a player with 35 caps for France and one who plays so high up the pitch.

In other Newcastle news, their former fan favourite is close to joining league champions.