NEWCASTLE United have acted quickly to refute suggestions Albert Luque could be on his way back to Spain in the January transfer window with the club revealing a determination to bring the best out of the winger.

Luque is fully fit again after struggling to overcome a serious hamstring problem he picked up in only his second appearance for the club against Fulham in September.

But, as his last two outings have proved, the 27-year-old has been reluctant to test himself to the full in fear of the injury recurring and having to spend more time on the sidelines.

It is for this reason that Souness - who witnessed poor displays from his £9.5m summer buy in recent games against Wigan and Aston Villa - left Luque on the bench for the weekend trip to West Ham.

Nevertheless, the Newcastle boss is quick to highlight that there is certainly no lack of belief in the player's ability, more a precautionary measure while the former Deportivo La Coruna star builds up his confidence.

"Albert Luque is having to ease his way back to full fitness. We brought him back a little too early and you could tell in the games he played that he was still worried about his hamstring," said Souness.

"He has had a really nasty injury. The injury he has had is worse than breaking your leg. He snapped his hamstring into two pieces. With any hamstring injury it is difficult coming back and this was worse than most. He needs to feel his way back and he is having to be patient.

"It is only in the last week or so that we are starting to see glimpses of the player that we signed. Only now in training are we starting to see a player who has the confidence not to hold back, who isn't worrying about his hamstring the whole time."

To see Luque's name mentioned with a possible switch back to his homeland with either Barcelona or Real Madrid has shocked the St James' Park hierarchy.

Even though the Spanish international has not shown he will be able to cut it in the Premiership, there is a strong belief within the Newcastle coaching set-up that he will be able to when he is psychologically over his injury.

And it is for this reason Souness, who has only handed Luque English league action on four occasions, is keen to retain the services of someone who is regarded as one of the hottest properties in Spain.

Luque is likely to be on the bench again when Newcastle travel to Liverpool on Boxing Day, but his boss now has the faith to pitch him in should he be required at the expense of stand-in winger Shola Ameobi.

Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd has also hit out at the report and is baffled by the claim the Magpies are ready to cash in on their expensive summer buy.

"These stories are just rubbish," Shepherd said. "I don't know where people get the idea from that we'd consider selling a player we worked so hard to sign only four months ago.

"Why on earth would we do that? He is regarded as one of the best players in Spain and we think he will be a big player for us, so these stories are ludicrous."

Newcastle have also denied any interest in Marseille's Ivory Coast defender Abdoulaye Meite.

* Chelsea's victory at Highbury on Sunday did not just end Arsenal's title ambitions for another season, it may also have confirmed Jose Mourinho's current belief that he does not need to add to his squad in the January transfer window.

Even with the departures of Michael Essien and Didier Drogba for the African Nations Cup next month, Mourinho feels he has enough strength in depth to cope with any injuries to key players during their absence.

The Portuguese coach's observation that Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal have all to play each other in the run-in is another reason why Mourinho will stick with a squad that has put them nine points clear at the top of the Barclays Premiership table.

It was no coincidence that the return of their influential midfielder Claude Makelele against Arsenal inspired Chelsea to their best performance of the season.

His comeback will have cheered Mourinho immensely, who can now let Essien take a breather.

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