Newcastle United exit door open for Cheick Tiote
Boss Rafa Benitez has told fringe man Cheick Tiote to knuckle down at Newcastle United.
But the manager admits that, with the transfer window in the United Arab Emirates remaining open, and clubs interested, ‘D Day’ is approaching with regards his future at the club.
Tiote has become a peripheral figure during the Spaniard’s reign at St James’ Park.
The Ivory Coast international has been edging closer to the exit door, with a late summer window move to Turkish giants Galatasaray collapsing in September.
But he came in from the cold at the end of last month, playing the final 15 minutes of the 1-1 draw at Aston Villa.
And Benitez has revealed he has held talks with Tiote regarding his future at the club.
“I was talking with him on Tuesday because obviously we are still waiting, the 20th is the date the transfer window closes in the Emirates,” said Benitez of the 30-year-old.
“But he is training really well, so I just told him: ‘Look, just wait a little bit, keep training hard and then we can decide.’
“Because he is a player who still has something to offer.”
Benitez admits that having Tiote around the place, for however long that may be, has worked as a bit of a catalyst for the other midfielders in his Magpies’ squad.
“I think that the players appreciate that he’s a good professional and it’s a normal situation for them,” he said.
“They know that the market is still open, they know that it’s not easy for a player to keep training but not necessarily be involved.
“But, because they can see him training, maybe they will say: ‘Pfft, he could start.’”
Used just once by the manager so far this season, Tiote’s fitness has been called into question by some quarters.
Benitez says Tiote is fit but in terms of match fitness is still rated as some way off the level required to compete in the week-to-week rigours of Championship football.
“He’s not a player who is not physically at the level,” said Benitez.
“It is one thing to be physically fit – and he is fine – but the other thing is the match fitness, and you have to play games to get match fitness.
“So maybe he’s a little bit short of match fitness, but every training session he is fine physically.
“It’s one more player in the squad and everybody is just waiting to see what happens.”