By Will Butcher
Rafa Benitez has confirmed that Cheick Tiote will remain a Newcastle player for the time being.
Earlier this month, Sky Sports’ Spanish expert Guillem Balague reported that the 30-year-old midfielder was close to completing a move to La Liga side Sporting Gijon and that Tiote hoped that the deal would go through.
However, Evening Chronicle journalist Lee Ryder quoted Benitez on his personal Twitter account on Friday as stating that Tiote is to remain with the Toon, for now.
Rafa confirms that Tiote still an #nufc player – for now
— Lee Ryder (@lee_ryder) January 20, 2017
Tiote has made just one league appearance this season after being ostracised by Benitez, following a summer-long transfer saga that almost saw him join Turkish side Galatasaray.
With the likes of Jonjo Shelvey, Jack Colback and Isaac Hayden ahead of him in the pecking order, Tiote was expected to leave this month as his contract enters its final six months.
However, a move to Sporting Gijon looks unlikely to occur any time soon, with the La Liga side on the search for a new manager following Abelardo Fernández’s resignation.
Since his move from Dutch outfit FC Twente, combative midfielder Tiote has made a total of 156 appearances in all competitions, scoring once in a 4-4 draw against Arsenal.
Football Insider verdict:
Getting the 55-time international off the wage bill at St. James’ Park should remain a priority for manager Benitez, with the Ivorian reportedly earning wages believed to be worth £40,000 a week. Offloading Tiote will give the former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss more flexibility in the January transfer window, as he looks to boost his side’s promotion chase by entering the market for the kind of player that can aid their fight to gain an instant return to the Premier League. The last thing the Toon want is to be stuck with the midfielder, as he continues to pick up his huge pay cheque on the sidelines at St. James’ Park. However, as Benitez has said he’s a Newcastle player for now, and if no one comes in for him in the next two weeks, he’ll be a Newcastle player for another six months. It shows that it’s not easy to offload a player who hasn’t been playing, that comes with the baggage of high wages.
In other Newcastle transfer news, the Toon have been given this emphatic response in the pursuit of this Championship winger.