Matz Sels says he turned down the chance to play in the Premier League to sign for Rafa Benitez at Newcastle United.
The goalkeeper joined the Magpies from Gent this summer and is expected to start the new Championship season between the posts.
The 24-year-old was also linked with top-flight clubs Southampton and Middlesbrough, but Benitez convinced him to sign for Newcastle, who take on Fulham at Craven Cottage on Friday night.
“There was also a few teams from the Premier League that was interested, but Newcastle is a really big club,” said Sels.
“It’s strange that they were relegated, but that’s football.
“I heard about the interest from Newcastle, had a talk with Rafa Benitez and was convinced of my choice.
It’s strange that they were relegated, but that’s football. I heard about the interest from Newcastle, had a talk with Rafa Benitez and was convinced of my choice.Matz Sels
“It’s a team that doesn’t belong in the second division. Normally, it’s always a Premier League team - a top club in the Premier League. I was convinced of my choice.”
Sels, relishing the long season ahead, is hopeful that United’s stay in the Championship will prove to be a short one.
“I’m looking forward to Friday and the first game,” he said.
“In my career I always try to go step by step. Newcastle is a big club, so it’s a good step forward for me.
“Hopefully, I can bring the team where it belongs.”
With Tim Krul and Rob Elliot recovering from long-term knee injuries, United manager Benitez felt he needed another goalkeeper.
And Sels will compete with Karl Darlow and Freddie Woodman while Krul and Elliot continue their rehabilitation.
“I think in every club you have a lot of good goalkeepers,” said the Belgium Under-21 international. “Now here, there four or five good goalkeepers.
“That’s good for the competition between us. I have to show that I’m worthy of playing.
“Hopefully, I can learn a lot. That’s the most important thing. I think I’m the youngest, so I try to listen to the coach and the goalkeeping trainer (Simon Smith).
“That’s what I can do and show myself in the games and in training.
“I’m 24 now, which is still young for a goalkeeper.
“I have to improve a lot of things. Hopefully, I can do it here. The best way to do it is when you are playing.”
Sels and his team-mates trained in front of around 8,000 fans at St James’s Park yesterday ahead of the Fulham game.
“It’s a Monday, so it’s crazy that there are a lot of fans,” he said.
“There were a few thousand. I heard in Belgium that the fans are fantastic.
“There are a lot of tickets already sold, so that means that it has a lot of ambition. Hopefully, I can help bring this team to where it belongs.”