Diame May Not Want New Deal

Newcastle United midfielder Mo Diame has to start both of the Magpies' final two matches in order to trigger a one-year contract extension

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Among all the uncertainty surrounding the futures of key men at St James' Park at the moment, Mo Diame's contract situation is perhaps the most curious.

While the Newcastle United hierarchy and Rafa Benitez himself both insist they want the Spaniard to remain Magpies manager for the 2019/20 campaign - providing they can find some commonality between their divergent visions - nobody is quite sure what is happening with Mo Diame.

What is even more disconcerting, however, is that we simply cannot be certain what the end game for each of the respective parties involved is.

Does Diame actually want to stay? Do the club really want to keep him? Does Benitez view Diame as a crucial component part of any ambitious United squad going forward?

Privately, the club are believed to be receptive to honouring Diame's one-year extension regardless of whether he meets the 25-start tally it is understood the midfielder needs to reach in order to exercise the provision in his deal.

But Diame is believed to have received lucrative offers from across Europe and Turkey - and, given that he turns 32 in June, he recognises this could be his last opportunity to secure one final decent contract before he retires.

Therefore the Senegalese has asked Newcastle for a two-year deal, rather than the 12-month option which is on the table, in order to financially secure his future.

The Magpies hierarchy, on the other hand, are reluctant to hand out a deal longer than a solitary season to a player in their thirties - something Diame was open about during an interview earlier this month.

Of the 23 Premier League starts Diame has made this season, 21 of them came in the first 21 games. Until he was forced off in the 53rd minute of the 2-0 defeat to Manchester United on New Year's Day with a hip injury, the midfielder had started every single one of Newcastle's league matches.

True, that hip problem sidelined Diame for the next four matches - while the exemplary form of Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff, both of who had grasped their chances, kept the former West Ham United midfielder out of the side.

But, since Longstaff was ruled out for the remainder of the campaign due to a knee problem on March 2, Diame has started just two of the following seven matches.

Hayden has rightly remained first choice in the engine room, but for Ki Sung-yueng - whose form has been questionable - to have repeatedly been selected ahead of Diame, and then for the out-of-favour figure of Jonjo Shelvey to get the nod ahead of the Senegalese at Brighton & Hove Albion at the weekend, raised eyebrows.

 

As much as Benitez may plead otherwise, there seems little doubt that Diame's contract situation is at least a contributing factor in the midfield selection at the moment, if not indeed the most-important consideration.

Has Benitez been carefully plotting the matches Diame starts, to prevent him triggering the clause? If so, has he done that because Diame does not want to exercise the option? Is Diame potentially even asking Benitez to keep him out of the starting XI for that reason? The fact is that we simply do not know at this moment in time.

It seems unlikely the club would be putting pressure on Benitez not to play Diame.