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Mohamed Diame French Interview: Choosing Newcastle over Hull, Rafa Benitez v Steve Bruce

3 years ago
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When Mohamed Diame chose Newcastle United and Championship football over Hull City and the Premier League, it raised more than a few eyebrows.

Having played all his previous English football in the top tier, the midfielder had scored 10 goals in a leading role to get them promoted.

However, Newcastle offered the £4m trigger amount in his contract and the man from Senegal said yes.

Mohamed Diame says that Newcastle is ‘completely’ a bigger club than Hull but is honest enough to admit that if the Humberside club hadn’t been in such a mess  pre-season, he would ‘probably have stayed’.

When it comes to managers though, the Newcastle star says that there is no doubt. He believes that working with Rafa Benitez is at the very highest level, way above the likes of Sam Allardyce and Steve Bruce.

A reminder also that there comes an extra challenge for Rafa Benitez in around a month’s time, when the likes of Mohamed Diame, Achraf Lazaar, Christian Atsu and Chancel Mbemba are set to disappear in the new year for an unknown number of matches, as they prepare for the African Cup of Nations.

Diame says that Rafa Benitez ‘prepares great things for next season’ at Newcastle but that the only focus now is promotion.

Mohamed Diame speaking earlier this week in France to So Foot:

After eight straight victories in the Championship, you experienced the defeat to Blackburn. How can you explain it?

I think we lost because of the (lack of) intensity we brought. Blackburn played at their own pace. We were at home, we should have put pressure on them early in the game but they killed time. From the moment they scored, it was very difficult.

Many people were surprised by your choice to leave Hull for Newcastle …

It was an easy choice to make, in the sense that after what we experienced last season, with the promotion to the Premier League and win against Sheffield at Wembley, it was time for the club to evolve and take things in hand to try to stabilize in the Premier League.

But this summer, we ended up with a very small squad, the coach Steve Bruce resigned, a lot of injuries … It was a pretty complicated situation. It was a season  already very complicated before the start. So when I got the call from Rafa Benítez who told me that Newcastle were interested in me, the choice was easy enough to make.

Would you not have preferred to move to the Premier League this season?

Of course, as would all players! We all want to play at the highest level, in the Premier League, and I repeat: if there had not been these difficulties in Hull, I’d probably have stayed. Anyway, today I am a player of Newcastle, I’m very proud. This is a very big club and I am extremely happy to have made that choice.

So Newcastle is a bigger club that Hull City ?

Completely. It is a huge club with solid foundations.There is a future here, with a great coach who prepares great things for next season. First, we have to focus on this season and get back to the Premier League very quickly. In England, everyone agrees that Newcastle is a “big club”. When we play at home, playing in front of 50 000 people, so good, there is not much more to say!

What is it like to work with a coach like Benítez?

I worked with Steve Bruce, Sam Allardyce , Roberto Martinez and now Rafa Benítez . This is the highest level. It really makes you want to learn and work thoroughly. When you see the career he has had, great players with whom he worked and the clubs he coached, you know that it is someone who can bring you a lot of things every day. So we listen and continue to learn.

The Africa Cup of Nations approaching. Will Senegal finally succeed in bringing this trophy to Dakar?

Hopefully anyway! We are ambitious, we have a team with great qualities, with players playing in major championships. We go with confidence but also with great suspicion. In the past, there was also  a lot of confidence and we got caught out. This is not an easy group, so we’ll have to start the competition taking it very seriously – we are very focused.

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