DAVIDE Santon has shrugged off speculation of a move back to Italy – and insists he is happy at Newcastle United.
The defender was yesterday linked with a move to Serie A giants AC Milan after their owner Silvio Berlusconi revealed his admiration for the player.
But Santon, who told the Gazette before Christmas that he was happy on Tyneside, has reiterated his commitment to the Magpies.
And while this season hasn’t been as successful as last year, the full-back believes Newcastle’s young team are ‘growing together’.
“I have had a year and a half here,” said 22-year-old Santon. “I really enjoy it.
“I am happy at the club, but also happy as a player.
“This is really important for a young player.
“We are a young team here, and we are growing together. That will only make us stronger in the long term.
“The team give me confidence to play my game. If you play when you are stressed, you can’t give 100 per cent.
“But when you are settled as a group you can do well.”
Santon has started all of Newcastle’s 21 Premier League fixtures this term, but has seen the team struggle to hit the standards of last season, when they finished fifth and qualified for the Europa League.
This time around, the Magpies sit 15th, just two points off the relegation zone going into Saturday’s crucial game at Norwich.
Santon made his first Premier League start for Newcastle in the fixture last season, when United crashed to a 4-2 defeat, and his form since has earned him a call-up to the full Italian squad.
“Last year we were challenging,” added Santon. “But we still have a good team, and we have to try to finish as high as we can.
“I know I can do better than now though.
“And when we have all of our players fit, we know we can do better as a team.”
Santon joined Newcastle from Inter in the summer of 2011, but it is their Milan rivals who have admitted an interest in the player.
His stock is high in Italy, and Berlusconi admits he is following the defender’s progress.
He said “We are following about 100 young players. (Roma’s Mattia) Destro and (Davide) Santon? I like both.”
Santon, however, is settled on Tyneside with a Geordie girlfriend, and is under contract with Newcastle until 2016.