RAFAEL BENITEZ has Newcastle United’s money-men pressing ahead on the recruitment front ahead of his Premier League return, with midfielder Isaac Hayden already desperate to see what next month’s pre-season training brings.
Hayden knows there is a huge and exciting summer ahead after Benitez was given the go-ahead to significantly strengthen the squad ahead of playing in the top-flight again next season.
As well as pursuing a number of transfer targets already, Newcastle are in discussions with Christian Atsu aimed at keeping him at St James’ Park on a permanent basis.
The Ghana winger has spent the season on loan on Tyneside and an agreement is already in place over a £6.2m fee. The 25-year-old will need to agree personal terms, though, but Newcastle are keen if the deal suits them.
Atsu played 35 times and scored five times to help Newcastle to the title but he has not proven himself on the Premier League stage since signing for Chelsea from Porto in 2013.
There are also likely to be departures. Defender Grant Hanley, who struggled to become a regular after moving from Blackburn last summer, is interesting Derby and Wolves.
Hayden is looking ahead to making an impact at the top level himself, having had to gamble on the switch to Newcastle from Arsenal – and he can’t wait to prove his worth in the top tier.
Hayden said: “That's the pinnacle, that's where everybody wants to play. All the best players in the world want to come to the Premier League and test themselves against the best players.
“I know I have got improving to do in certain aspects of my game – I have spoken to the manager about that – but he's got full confidence in me, I have got full confidence in myself that come next season, especially in pre-season, my body will be 100 per cent fit, ready and raring to go and improve.
“I should have no doubt that I'll be able to hack it in the Premier League.”
In securing promotion via a top two spot, Newcastle’s squad of title winners has been able to head off on holiday rather than fight it out through the play-offs.
And after the 46-game season that was a relief all-round, Hayden is already looking ahead to being back in action with the group.
The 22-year-old said: “It was a long, hard season. I've had ankle injuries, I've been knocked here, I've been knocked there, but that's just the nature of football, the nature of the way I play football. I always want to put myself about and make sure that I have an impact on the game.
“It’s good to have a couple of weeks' rest, resting the head, resting the body and then ready to go ahead for next season.
“I can't speak for everybody else, but I'll have two weeks off and I'll be dying to come back. That's just the nature of football. I love playing and I love improving and becoming a better player.
“I know the off-season is a rest and obviously you are there to rest, but it's seven weeks. It gives you a good chance to work on your body and improve aspects that you might not have improved during the season because of so many games. It gives you chance to come back and be ready for the Premier League.”
Ciaran Clark has been ruled out of Ireland’s games in June with a knee injury. He is keen to build back up to full fitness having struggled towards the back end of the season with the problem.