CHEICK TIOTE has almost certainly played his final game for Newcastle United, with Abu Dhabi champions Al-Jazira having offered the midfielder a three-year deal in the Middle East.

Tiote was omitted from the Newcastle squad that claimed a 2-0 friendly win at Southend United last night, with goals from Vurnon Anita and Yoan Gouffran ensuring the Magpies maintained their unbeaten pre-season record in their penultimate outing before the opening day of the new Championship campaign.

Tiote has been in talks with Al-Jazira officials over the last few days, and is understood to have agreed the terms of a deal that will be worth around £4m-a-year.

Newcastle are adamant he will not be allowed to leave until they have agreed acceptable terms with Al-Jazira, but a deal should be agreed within the next few days, enabling the Ivory Coast international to sever his six-year association with the Magpies.

“We have some players that are in the market because the clubs are asking for them, but we have to wait and see if we receive the right offers for the right players,” said Benitez, when asked to comment about Tiote’s situation.

“Then we will move forward. The main thing for me is to be sure we can bring the players we need to improve the squad.”

Tiote will not be the only player leaving Newcastle before the end of next month, with Moussa Sissoko and Tim Krul also expected to move on.

However, Benitez remains determined to bring in more signings, with another forward and an attacking midfielder currently regarded as the priority positions.

Sheffield United youngster Che Adams was the latest player to be linked with a possible move to Tyneside this week, but Benitez is understood to be pursuing more experienced players as he looks to strengthen a squad that has already been installed as the extremely short-priced favourites to win the Championship title next season.

“We were moving quickly at the beginning,” said Benitez. “After Premier League teams started spending some money, people were thinking that the prices would be higher and then it’s more difficult. But still we have some things behind the scenes and we are close.”

Last night’s line-up provided a number of clues to Benitez’s likely starting XI for Newcastle’s Championship opener at Fulham, with the trip to Craven Cottage now just nine days away.

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Save for the likely return of Matt Ritchie, who is still nursing a minor knock, last night’s team could well be the one that kicks off life in the second tier on the banks of the Thames.

The back four that started at Roots Hall could well be the same line-up that takes to the field against Fulham, although Grant Hanley, who made his first appearance in a Newcastle shirt as a 63rd-minute substitute, will hope to use Saturday’s final friendly against Dutch side Vitesse to highlight his credentials.

Chancel Mbemba and Jamaal Lascelles have combined effectively during the pre-season programme, and the pair look reasonably well established with Daryl Janmaat and Paul Dummett on either side of them.

Isaac Hayden, a £2.5m signing from Arsenal, has clearly made a major impact, and his partnership with Jonjo Shelvey could be crucial to Newcastle’s chances next season, although Jack Colback will hope to dislodge one of the pair at some stage.

Similarly, the partnership between Ayoze Perez, who has forced his way into the ‘number ten’ position, and Dwight Gayle, who will start the season up front with Aleksandar Mitrovic serving a four-match ban, could be a major factor in determining the Magpies’ early-season fortunes.

Last night’s game represented a decent work out, with Newcastle dominating for long spells against opponents who will be playing just a league below them next season.

Gayle and Perez both went close before the interval, before Anita broke the deadlock in the third minute of the second half. The Dutchman, who was playing in an advanced position down the right-hand side, pounced on a loose ball before drilling a fierce strike into the top left-hand corner.

Shelvey came close to doubling Newcastle’s lead with a long-range shot that was well saved by Southend goalkeeper Mark Oxley, and the Magpies finally claimed a second goal through Gouffran with 12 minutes left.

The Frenchman, who has been something of a forgotten man in the last year or so, dribbled into the penalty area before drilling an angled strike into the right-hand corner.

“It was a solid performance,” said Benitez. “We needed to do the job. The first half, they were a little bit better physically, but little by little we were controlling the game and we were just trying to play counter-attack.

“As soon as we scored the first goal, it was clear that they needed to take more risks and we could manage it a bit better.

“We have to improve. It was a solid performance - the team was fine - but still we have to improve and hopefully we can adjust two or three things in one week and we will be a little bit better.

“We conceded maybe one or two chances, not too many. But, again, I would say in the Championship you have to concede even less.”

Newcastle (4-2-3-1):  Darlow; Janmaat (Sterry 63), Mbemba (Hanley 63), Lascelles, Dummett; Hayden (Colback 63), Shelvey (Saivet 73); Anita (Thauvin 78), Perez (Mitrovic 73), Aarons (Gouffran 63); Gayle (Armstrong 63).

Sub (not used): Sels (gk).