Rafael Benitez has told Moussa Sissoko’s suitors to ‘put their money on the table’ if they want to sign the £35million-rated midfielder.
The 27-year-old France international has been linked with a series of clubs, including Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Crystal Palace, Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, while Inter Milan and Everton are now reported to have joined the chase.
But the Magpies are yet to receive an offer anywhere near the huge price-tag they placed on their most saleable asset to ward off time-wasters and despite the player’s repeated insistence that he wants to leave and the endeavours of his representatives, no acceptable bid had yet been forthcoming.
Benitez, who will not have the player available to him for Wednesday night’s Championship clash with Reading because of an ankle injury suffered in training, said: “Moussa is now the big name in the market – if someone wants Moussa, they have to pay.
“If we are happy with the price and he is happy, then we can maybe consider. But if we are not happy, then he can stay here and I will be really, really pleased to keep him.”
Newcastle have already allowed Holland international Georginio Wijnaldum to leave the club in a £25million switch to Liverpool, a transfer which yielded a profit of around £11.5million, but they are seeking an even bigger fee for Sissoko, who enhanced his reputation during the Euro 2016 finals, if not in his club’s ill-fated quest for top-flight survival.
Tim Krul fitness update
Benitez has overhauled the squad during the summer and still has work to do, and some of that will involve off-loading players now surplus to requirements with the current group too big despite its deficiencies.
The Spaniard said: “We do not need to sell, but we want to fix our squad and to end up with a number of players that will be enough for the Championship, but that will not be much too big.”
One of those who could yet leave is Dutch international Tim Krul, one of five senior keepers on the books at St James’ Park, who is close to returning from a knee ligament injury as he enters the final season of his contract.
Benitez admitted: “He’s a very good goalkeeper, but we have (Rob) Elliot in the same situation. We have (Matz) Sels now, we have (Karl) Darlow and we have (Freddie) Woodman, so we cannot keep five keepers for the whole season.”