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Christian Atsu insists he always knew he wanted to return to Newcastle United permanently this summer.
The 25-year-old initially joined the Magpies on a season-long loan from Chelsea 12 months ago, scoring five league goals as he helped United lift the Championship title.
Rafa Benitez subsequently opted to activate the permanent-purchase clause in his contract and Atsu signed for £6.5million in May.
In Atsu’s mind, however, he was already a permanent Newcastle player before penning his four-year deal, as he knew he always wanted to return to St James’ Park and prove himself in the Premier League with the Magpies.
“We have a big squad and a lot of competition but I need to work hard and in the moments I am on the pitch, give my best,” the Ghana international explained.
“I am looking forward to any opportunity I am given.
“For me, I wanted to be here. I knew there would be a lot of competition, I just need to do my best. “There are a lot of great players in the team so I need to work hard and get through it.”
Atsu failed to make a first-team appearance at Chelsea and underwhelmed during previous spells in the top flight with Everton and AFC Bournemouth. But now he is ready to establish himself as a Premier League player – and he is relishing the challenge of facing Tottenham Hotspur in United’s curtain raiser on Sunday.
“We know every game is difficult and now we are going to play against Tottenham, so we just need to keep our focus and prepare for every game,” Atsu added.
“What we have ahead is bigger than what we achieved last season so we need to keep improving.”
Newcastle strolled to a 2-0 victory over Hellas Verona in their final pre-season friendly on Sunday, with Atsu grabbing United’s second goal.
In the 11th minute, Jonjo Shelvey floated a pass forward which was aimed for Aleksandar Mitrovic, the Serbian slipped over and the ball found its way to Atsu, who ghosted in behind the Verona defence to slot home from a tight angle.
“Always in football you need luck, I had the luck when the ball came through to me and then I scored,” Atsu said of his Verona strike. “The most-important thing is that the team won and I’m also happy that I scored.
“I feel fit and ready but I want to keep getting better. “We are getting to more difficult matches so I am working hard to be a better player for this team.
“We are very happy that we won our last game of pre-season because it raises our confidence levels.
“We play to win each and every game and we are very happy
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