Tiredness, underperforming and international retirement - Newcastle's Mo Diame opens up about his bittersweet first year on Tyneside
The physical demands of the Championship proved a step too far for Newcastle midfielder Mo Diame.
But the former Hull City man has vowed to come back stronger for United in the Premier League.
Diame arrived at St James’s Park last summer for around £5million from the KCOM Stadium, and was expected to bring goals to the Magpies XI.
But things did not materialise quite how Diame, the club and the fans imagined.
A number of below par performances, and a lack of goal threat saw him interchange with Ayoze Perez, who ended the season much stronger than his Senegalese teammate, for the United No 10 position, which Diame was signed to make his own.
The player himself admits he had a poor maiden season at SJP.
And he thinks a lot of that is down to the physical demands of playing second tier football, two years on the bounce.
The 29-year-old, who scored just three league goals in 37 games as Newcastle snatched the Championship title from Brighton & Hove Albion’s grasp on the final day of the season, said: “Collectively, I’m happy with the season. The target was to be champions and we achieved that, so of course I am happy.
“Personally, though, I am a little bit disappointed. I didn’t play the way I wanted to. I wanted to make the fans happy, but my body just wasn’t ready for two consecutive seasons in the Championship.
“Games every two days was difficult [to cope with] and I wasn’t used to it.
“I feel it’s a purely physical reason for underachieving because everything else was in place to succeed - great teammates to help me shine, a massive stadium full of amazing fans.
“Deciding to come to Newcastle was easy – it’s a huge club with a great manager. I really struggled physically to push myself, though.
“I want to use this summer to make sure I am ready to give my all for Newcastle next season. My head is with this club and I want to be here and play in the Premier League.”
Diame made the remarkable decision to retire from international football this season, citing a number of reasons, including his want to produce his best for United.
The former West Ham and Wigan Athletic man has opened up about the call to walk away from Senegal.
“Since I picked up an injury at Hull, I struggled to get back to my top level,” admits Diame.
“All the international breaks, going away, it didn’t help me get back to the top. In the end I was under-performing with both club and country, and I had to make a choice.
“I stopped internationals for a physical reason alone.
“Yes, I experienced a lack of professionalism and organisation when playing for Senegal and it can give you a headache, but it’s part of African football and it is hard to say exactly why it is like that.
“There are people who are trying to improve these things but such problems have existed for a long time.
“Hopefully someone succeeds in changing it, but at the moment you have to just accept it if you want to be an African international player.”
Despite his underwhelming campaign, Diame is not thought to be one of those whose future is in doubt this summer as manager Rafa Benitez oversees a complete squad overhaul ahead of the Magpies return to the big time.