Moussa Sissoko has rocked Newcastle by admitting he wants to leave the club this summer.
The 26-year-old, who joined the Magpies in January 2013 on a six-and-a-half-year deal, captained the side for the final few games of last season as they were relegated to the Championship.
But in an interview published on Tuesday, the France international said he hopes to move on from St James’ Park as he needs to keep playing at the highest level.
Sissoko expressed his desire to remain in the Premier League side and play for a Champions League club, speaking highly of Arsenal.
Sissoko told Foot Mercato: “I gave everything there for three-and-a-half years.
“I hope that today [Newcastle] will be smart enough to understand that to continue my development I need to keep playing at the highest level.
“As I want to stay in the France team I could not stay in the Championship. There will be discussions. I hope they will go in my opinion. I want to leave.”
Sissoko said he has already discussed the matter with Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez and is optimistic there will be no problem with him departing.
The Magpies man said: “It is flattering that a coach like him, a great coach, wants to keep me, but I think he knows that I have got to a level where playing in the Championship would be difficult for me.
“I think he understands. I have already had a discussion with him. My representatives will have a discussion with him.
“I think he knows what I want, where I want to go. So I hope there will be no problem for me to find my happiness in another club.”
He added: “I want to continue my career in England, at a club that plays in the Champions League because I think this best fits my style of play.”
Sissoko then spoke in glowing terms about Arsenal, with whom he has been linked.
“It’s very flattering,” he said. “Arsenal is one of the best European clubs. Be followed by this kind of club, it’s good to know. I hope I will have a chance soon to play for this club or a similar club.
“I think few people would refuse to play for this club. The beautiful Arsenal. We’ll see.
“I cannot tell you that I will go to Arsenal. For now, I’m focused on France and Euro 2016.
“I have advisors who manage all this and I hope everything will go well with minimal difficulty for me to find another club.”