Allan Saint-Maximin insists he is "very proud" to be at Newcastle - as speculation about his future continues to rumble on.
Saint-Maximin, 25, was one of Newcastle's most important players last season - helping them stay in the Premier League - but has struggled for minutes this term. The Frenchman made his first Premier League start since August against West Ham on Saturday.
Saint-Maximin was linked with AC Milan during the January transfer window and has admitted he was aware of the speculation, but the winger claims he is focused solely on playing for Newcastle. He is also determined to regain his spot in the starting XI.
"I want to be honest because I’m not going to lie," Saint-Maximin told The Northern Echo. "When you are in the situation [of not playing much], a lot of teams can see that and think it’s the right opportunity to come and buy the player.
"But I’m very proud to be here, and the most important thing for me is to play. I will always try to be in a position where I play every game because no player plays football to be on the bench."
Saint-Maximin's exile from the starting XI was triggered by a hamstring injury he suffered in August. He made his comeback as a substitute during the 5-1 home win against Brentford in October, but he then missed another three league games due to a muscle injury.
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The former France youth international returned to Eddie Howe's side before the World Cup, but only as a substitute. He has played in all of their post-Qatar league fixtures, but all of those outings - apart from the 1-1 draw against the Hammers - were from the bench.
Saint-Maximin believes fans "need to understand the situation" surrounding his recent snubs. He insists Newcastle are in good form and it is hard to regain a starting role when that is the case. He also claims he has a "very good relationship" with manager Howe.
Although few critics are doubting Saint-Maximin's quality, his absence is understandable. Newcastle are enjoying a brilliant campaign under Howe, as they are fourth in the Premier League table and have reached this month's Carabao Cup final at Wembley.
Competition for places is intense, especially following the arrival of Anthony Gordon from Everton last month. Saint-Maximin knows it is hard to break back into a winning team, but the talented star will be confident of regaining his spot over the coming weeks.
Newcastle's opponents in the Carabao Cup final are Manchester United, with the game pencilled in for February 26. The Magpies have another two Premier League fixtures against Bournemouth and Liverpool to play before then and are staying professional.
Saint-Maximin added: "I’m not going to lie, we think about the final, but we are professional. We know the league is so important, so every game, we try to be focused and win."2023-02-07T09:00:18Z dg43tfdfdgfd