UNSETTLED Cheik Tiote is looking to quit Newcastle United in the January transfer window.
Arsenal and Locomotiv Moscow are among the clubs eyeing a move for the midfielder.
United’s under-fire manager Alan Pardew last week admitted summer interest from an unnamed club had “unsettled” Tiote.
And Pardew said the club would look to open talks with Tiote’s representatives over a new deal at St James’s Park at the end of the season, despite his contract running until 2017.
But Tiote – whose private life this week made the headlines – has been quoted in his native Ivory Coast as saying his future lies away from Tyneside.
“I want to leave,” said tough-tackling Tiote, signed from FC Twente four years ago.
“I’ve spent four years with Newcastle. I think I have reached a stage where it’s maybe time for me to look elsewhere for a new challenge.
“I will focus on upcoming games, and let’s see what happens between now and December.
“It is true there were contacts for me from Arsenal and a club in Russia. I’d prefer to stay in England.”
Newcastle were yesterday attempting to authenticate the quotes, which appeared in an Ivorian magazine.
However, the sentiments expressed in them won’t necessarily come as a surprise to Pardew and United’s hierarchy given the events of summer, when Tiote was courted by an overseas club.
Tiote, it seems, is looking for a fresh footballing challenge – and a pay rise.
Asked if Tiote had become unsettled in the last transfer window, Pardew said: “Yes, for sure – I think it was a period of unsettlement for him.”
Pardew – who is battling to save his job after a winless start to the Premier League season – named Tiote as vice-captain at the start of the campaign.
Tiote had played some of his best football last season when he skippered United in the absence through injury of captain Fabricio Coloccini.
And the 53-year-old said: “I love him. He’s everything that you want in a Newcastle player.
“We obviously had a team fighting for his services, but the finance was never really in place. I think the reality was that we were quite comfortable that he wasn’t going to go anywhere.
“I think his contract situation needs to be resolved at the end of the season, for sure.
“I think, probably, towards the back end of the season we’ll have to start talking to his representatives.”
Tiote reported back for pre-season training later than the bulk of his team-mates because of his involvement in the Ivory Coast’s World Cup campaign.
He was expected to join his United team-mates in New Zealand in July, but in the event linked up with them on their return to Tyneside.
However, a hamstring injury saw him restricted to just 60 minutes of pre-season football
And Tiote made his seasonal debut in an international fixture last month.