YOHAN Cabaye has set Newcastle United a minimum target of reaching the quarter-finals of the Europa League this season.
As United began the complicated process of negotiating a five-year contract with midfield target Vurnon Anita yesterday, Cabaye set out an ambitious target for the Magpies ahead of their first foray into Europe for five years.
Newcastle head to Greek side Atromitos next week for their Europa League play-off first leg and Cabaye – who competed in Europe’s second tier competition with Lille in 2010 – says United should travel with high hopes.
He is one of the few players in the Newcastle squad with recent European experience, with United looking to many of their youthful squad members to step up and prove themselves against Continental opposition.
The France midfielder does not see this as a problem, however, pointing to the way they acquitted themselves in the key weeks of last season as proof that they can handle the pressure.
He said: “I have experience in Europe, but I hope to go further with Newcastle United.
“With Lille we made it into the last 16, but with Newcastle I think we can actually go further than that. We can do better than that.
“We have very good players who can prove themselves in Europe. These are players who believe in themselves.”
It is a competition he is looking forward to playing in again, having been frustrated at the sight of his former side Lille in Champions League action last term.
Although he still retains the ambition of playing in Europe’s elite tournament – a goal he believes can be achieved with United – he is happy to be back in the thick of Continental combat.
Cabaye added: “The Europa League missed me last season. We had a great season last season and we deserve to play in European competition.
“We wanted to play in the Champions League but the last two games cost us
everything. However, the Europa League is good as well, it is nice to be back in it.”
United still hope to have added at least one new face before their European campaign begins, with Anita due to start talks with Newcastle.
It is far from a straightforward process, however, and news of Newcastle’s successful bid for the Ajax midfielder has drawn late interest from elsewhere in Europe.
The Magpies hope to fend that off by offering the player a five-year-deal and a detailed description of how he will be utilised this season.
The player is understood to have reservations about whether he will get first-team opportunities, with Newcastle having no intention of selling either Cheick Tioté or Yohan Cabaye before the season starts.
The player’s father vocalised those doubts in the Dutch media on Monday night, pointing out he needed detailed plans on Newcastle’s intentions before he committed to the club.
He said: “We are not sure yet (of the move). Vurnon first wants to talk to the head coach of Newcastle United.
“Newcastle United and Ajax are well agreed, but Vurnon wants to know what the plans of the head coach of Newcastle United are with him. Does he want Vurnon for right-back?
“Or for left-back? Or in midfield? These are important questions for Vurnon in making his choice. On these questions he has no answer.”
United will still hope to tie up a deal for Anita before the weekend, however.
Meanwhile, there will be less pre-season worries for Alan Pardew with Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa both overlooked by France and Tioté ruled out of the Ivory Coast’s friendly against Fabio Capello’s Russia with a calf problem.
Captain Fabricio Coloccini, however, is with the Argentina squad for tonight’s friendly in Germany.
Tim Krul is also among new Holland coach Louis van Gaal’s first selection of players as they prepare to take on neighbours Belgium.
The Argentina-Germany game in Frankfurt is live on ESPN.