MOUSSA SISSOKO’S future could be dictated by what happens to his fellow France international Paul Pogba this summer – despite Rafael Benitez’s latest insistence that Newcastle United do not want to sell the midfielder.

Benitez spelled out Newcastle’s continued determination to hold on to Sissoko in response to comments from the France international in which he expressed a desire to leave the Magpies “as early as possible”.

Those comments have clearly irked the St James’ Park hierarchy, but while Benitez insists there have been no discussions over a possible selling price, it remains highly unlikely that Sissoko will still be a Newcastle player once the transfer window closes at the end of next month.

The Northern Echo:

His eventual destination remains unclear, although his future could well be linked to that of his fellow Frenchman, Pogba, who is being lined up for a potential £100m move from Juventus to Manchester United.

If Pogba leaves Juventus, the Italian club have already signalled that they regard Sissoko as a realistic replacement, and they would find themselves in a position where they could commit £20-30m to a deal.

If, however, Pogba does not leave Juventus, or opts to move to Real Madrid instead of Old Trafford, sources in Manchester claim Jose Mourinho regards Sissoko as a viable Plan B as he looks to add some energy and drive to his midfield.

Manchester United will not be playing in the Champions League next season, but Sissoko would nevertheless jump at the chance to move to a side who should be in a position to challenge for the Premier League title.

Arsenal and Liverpool have also been linked with possible moves for the 26-year-old, although neither club has made formal contact with Newcastle officials.

Sissoko flagged up his determination to leave Tyneside in an interview conducted during Euro 2016, and repeated his intention to move on yesterday. Having been widely hailed as France’s best player during Sunday’s Euro 2016 final, he clearly regards a drop into the Championship as potentially disastrous for his career.

The Northern Echo:

“Newcastle would ask for £35m? It could be £20m – for me it changes nothing,” said Sissoko, in an interview with French newspaper L’Equipe. “The interested clubs will know how to find common ground. I hope that it will be as early as possible.”

Sissoko’s representatives have also been discussing their client’s future, and are clearly frustrated at Newcastle’s stance in the last few days.

Speaking to French publication, Foot Mercato, a ‘representative of Sissoko’, who is understood to work for agency Mondial Sport, suggested there had been a prior agreement that the former Toulouse midfielder could leave for around £20m this summer.

He also highlighted Sissoko’s “loyalty” to Newcastle, comments that have angered the club’s fans given the half-hearted nature of a number of his performances as the Magpies were relegated last season.

“We do not understand (the £35m price),” said Sissoko’s representative. “It was agreed that Moussa would stay for one more season with Newcastle to help the team – which he did the best he could.

“It has never been a question that there was a more elevated clause. The club has always said that they would let Moussa leave for between €18m to €25m maximum.

“We hope that Rafa Benitez and the president will be more reasonable about Moussa’s future. He has always been loyal, he has always respected the club, the fans.

“There are clubs that have come to us and the club. We are perfectly aware of the approaches. We want everything to go well.”

Benitez confirmed his admiration for Sissoko when he handed him the captain’s armband in the final month of last season, and the Spaniard remains determined to do all he can to keep the midfielder within his squad.

He insists there have been no conversations about a possible sale, and denies having placed a £35m price tag on the Frenchman’s head. Instead, he is looking forward to welcoming Sissoko back into pre-season training once he has completed a post-Euro 2016 break.

The Northern Echo:

“We know he finished the season in really good form for us,” said Benitez. “I made him the captain so I rate him really highly.

“I’m disappointed because they (France) didn’t win (Euro 2016), but happy because of his performances. Now we have to wait.

“People are talking about ‘this price’ or ‘this price’, but we don’t want to sell so we haven’t put any price, and we are pleased, we are happy with him.

“I appreciate him too much to think about that. We know he has done really well and a lot of people will be talking about him, but we’d like to see him here and that’s it.”

Benitez continues to target more additions, and is set to make a final approach to Blackburn this week in an attempt to sign centre-half Grant Hanley.

Rovers rejected a second Newcastle bid worth £4.5m at the weekend, but the Magpies are set to table a take-it-or-leave-it offer worth around £5.5m in an attempt to prise Hanley from Ewood Park.