Newcastle target makes his mind up on big-money move
By Tom Blackburn
Anthony Knockaert has given a strong indication he will reject Newcastle to stay at Brighton.
The winger admitted that the north-east giants had tabled a bid for him but insisted he is happy at committed to Chris Hughton’s side.
The Argus claimed this week that Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez is a keen admirer of the playmaker, and is willing to shell out in the region of £6million to £10million after already having an offer rejected.
However, the Shields Gazette claimed on Friday that the 24-year-old is set to be offered a new contract to stay at the Amex Stadium, despite having three years remaining on his current Brighton deal.
“I feel very happy here, so if I need to stay I will stay,” Knockaert said, as quoted by the Brighton Argus. “I know how much I love the club and they’ve been brilliant with me since I’ve been here.
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“I am totally focused with the team and I have been all the time. There is no way the Newcastle bid distracted me.
“I love this team. The spirit is unbelievable. Our ambition is to get into the Premier League. This club deserves to do it and I will do everything to try to make it happen.”
The former Leicester City star left the Foxes last summer to play for Belgian giants Standard Liege. After scoring seven goals in all competitions during the first half of the season, the Seagulls came calling and Knockaert put pen to paper on a £2.6million deal.
The Frenchman scored another five league goals and added seven assists for Brighton as they mounted a promotion challenge, but were beaten in the play-off semi-finals by Sheffield Wednesday.
He demonstrated his value once again on Friday night as he scored the first goal for Brighton in their 3-0 Championship win over Nottingham Forest.
Championship big-boys Newcastle are in the hunt for an instant return to the top-flight, after former Real Madrid manager Rafa Benitez has so far dwarfed his Championship rivals with over £40million of spending on eight new recruits.
Premier League stars Mohamed Diame, Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle have all dropped a division to sign for the Magpies. Matz Sels, Jesus Gamez, Isaac Hayden, Ciaran Clark and Grant Hanley have also put pen to paper at St. James’ Park.