Newcastle star Christian Atsu says that there is only once choice between Ghana and Newcastle United, or indeed any other club.

The winger stating that ‘Your country must come first’.

The reputation of the African Cup of Nations has been hit by an increasing number of players refusing to play and looking to put their clubs first, Cameroon alone lost eight players from their squad.

The conflict will always be there whilst the premier African tournament clashes with club football, especially in Europe.

This latest tournament saw calls for future ones to be put at a different time in the football calendar to solve the problem.

However, on the other hand there were also some calling for the finals to be increased in size in future to 24 countries, which would then mean an even bigger conflict with more club matches to be missed – unless the tournament was moved.

Christian Atsu and Mbemba & Diame have already missed four Newcastle matches and with all three players reaching this weekend’s quarter-finals, they will also miss the FA Cup match at Oxford United.

Even if leaving the competition at this last eight stage, next Wednesday’s (1 February) home game with QPR would also surely be too soon, whilst the following game against Derby County (Sat 4 February) comes the day before the African Cup of Nations final.

Atsu says that he will ‘always be available’ for Ghana and is ‘glad’ that Newcastle United understand why he and the other players must be missing at this stage of the Championship promotion campaign.

Christian Atsu:

“You can’t compare anything with your country.

“Your country must come first. It is always an honour to represent my country.

“Any time that I am called, I will always be available.

“I will never refuse to represent my national team because I put my club first. Playing for Ghana means the world to me.

“I am glad that my club (Newcastle United) knows where I stand with representing my country.

“They understand because it (African Cup of Nations) is the biggest tournament in Africa.

“As an African and a Ghanaian, I have to be there to represent my country.”