Mohamed Diame opens up on his Newcastle United future
Mohamed Diame’s playing every game as if its his last for Newcastle United.
The midfielder is out of contract in the summer.
Diame, however, is two starts away from triggering a one-year contract extension.
The 31-year-old – who favours a two-year extension – came off the bench in last weekend’s 3-1 home win over Southampton, which secured the club’s Premier League status.
And Rafa Benitez could recall Diame to his starting XI for tomorrow’s game against relegation-threatened Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium, where he scored in a 2-1 win the season before last.
Diame, for his part, insists that he will enjoy every minute he gets on the pitch in the club’s three remaining games.
“I’m trying to enjoy the games as much as I can, because it could be the last one,” said Diame, signed from Hull City in 2016 for £4.5million.
“I’m just trying to enjoy – that’s it. Then we’ll see what will happen.”
Benitez says Diame’s contract situation is “not an issue” for him when he comes to select his starting XI each week.
“It has not been an issue,” said United’s manager, who is out of contract at St James’s Park himself on June 30.
“You can see if I need to use him, I can use him. I will not be too worried about that. We need to be sure we put on the pitch players that can win – that’s it.”
Diame helped Newcastle win promotion from the Championship in his first season at the club.
And the former Senegal international made 23 Premier League starts last season, when the club finished 10th.
Diame needs to make 25 starts this season to trigger the contract extension.
Had it not been for an injury at the turn of the year – he fractured a metatarsal – and the form of 21-year-old Sean Longstaff during his run in the team, Diame would have already earned the extra year at St James’s Park.
As it stands, Diame’s future is in the balance.
Isaac Hayden came off injured against Southampton, but has returned to training meaning Benitez, without the injured Longstaff, has a number of options for his midfield at the Amex Stadium.
Jonjo Shelvey is also pushing for a start, having played just 32 minutes of football since recovering from a niggling thigh injury,
And Diame – who has made 102 career appearances for the club – may not get the two starts needed to earn a contract extension.
Diame, however, is philosophical about the situation.
Asked if he would find it hard to leave United this summer, Diame said: “I’ve always said I’m happy here playing for this club and these fans.
“But this is football, and you have to deal with it.
“If I stay, I will be happy, and if I don’t stay, I will be happy somewhere else. That’s it.”
Newcastle are 13th in the league and 10 points ahead of 18th-placed 18th-placed Cardiff City, beaten by Liverpool last weekend.
And it was that result, on the back of Ayoze Perez’s hat-trick against Southampton, which made United mathematically safe from the threat of relegation.
“It’s very good,” said Diame, who replaced Hayden against Southampton.
“We did well. We were a little bit worried at 2-1, but I think we managed the game well.
“We’ve been in great form. We’re happy.”
Perez – who had struggled for form in the first half of the season – is now the club’s leading league scorer with 10 goals.
“He’s doing very well this year,” said Diame, who retired from international football two years ago to concentrate on his club career after winning 36 caps for Senegal.
“We know that at the beginning of the season he was unhappy with his performances, but I think he’s managed to come back into great form.
“He’s scoring a lot of goals for us and helping us to win games and get us to where we are today.”
Miguel Almiron, signed from Atlanta United in January for a club-record fee, had brought the best out of Perez and Salomon Rondon before succumbing to a season-ending hamstring injury against Southampton.
“I think they’ve got a good connection together,” said Diame.
“Even in training sessions you can see that they are playing so quick.
“We’re happy with the job they’re doing and I hope they will be better and better every game.”