Shola Ameobi wants to return to Newcastle United “in some capacity” when his playing career eventually comes to an end.
The 32-year-old Nigerian international will today take part in one of the biggest occasions of his football life – a World Cup match against Argentina which could take the Africans into the last 16 of the tournament – but this will not be his swansong.
The now former Newcastle striker has clubs in the Championship, America and Australia as possible destinations after he left St James’ Park after 14 years.
He admitted going back to play Newcastle would be difficult as a player but felt that would be something he would do on a permanent basis once he stopped playing.
Ameobi said: “Newcastle is where I grew up. It is the city I love and the club I have supported all my life, so I have been very privileged to play at the club for so long.
“It is such a fantastic club which really has been a blessing to me.
“To have my family and my friends in the town I love has been great.
“It is a sad time for me leaving, but I’ve had fantastic memories good and bad. It’s going to be strange not going back there next season, but life goes on.
“I’m only 32, so hopefully I have four or five more years in me.
“When I say ‘Newcastle till I die’ and ‘I can’t see myself ever wanting to leave the club’, that hasn’t changed, because I will be a Newcastle supporter and will continue to be.
“That I’m leaving the club doesn’t diminish that.
“Hopefully, it’s a place I will go back to in some capacity, to help give back to the club what they’ve given to me.
“It’s a career I want to make last for as long as I can.
“Me leaving Newcastle is not the end, it’s a new beginning.
“By going somewhere else, I can achieve some more and maximise what I have left in the game.”
In an interview in the current issue of FourFourTwo magazine Ameobi, who played almost 400 games for the club, claimed to have “enjoyed every minute” of his time at St James’ Park, despite the many ups and downs.
He paid a special tribute to the manager who first spotted potential in the skinny, tall kid as an 18-year-old.
Ameobi added: “My mentor in this game was the late Sir Bobby Robson. He had the most impact in my career.
“He was like a father figure to me and the one who helped me understand what it took to play at this level.
“Playing for the team you support – there is no better feeling than that.
“It’s been a real honour for me to have been able to do that for so long.”
Mathieu Debuchy is also in World Cup action today when France take on Ecuador in the Maracana.
The right-back spoke of his desire to play once against in the Champions League, which he managed with Lyon.
While that could be taken as a desire to leave Newcastle – and long-time admirers Paris St-Germain are thought to be considering a move – he does speak fondly of his life in England.
Debuchy said: “It’s been a great adventure. I have discovered English charm, Newcastle and their extraordinary fans.
“It’s really incredible to play in that atmosphere.
“Having said that, I miss European football – and the Champions League in particular.”