VALENCIA-TARGET Ayoze Perez insists he does not know what is around the corner, but Newcastle United will always have a special place in his heart.

This week has seen fresh speculation surrounding his future, with claims that he has told friends that he would be interested in returning to La Liga by moving to the Mestalla.

Valencia have made him one of their top targets this summer and there is also known to be interest in him from Sevilla, Napoli and Inter Milan.

The ongoing uncertainty surrounding Rafa Benitez’s future at Newcastle has not helped, with the days dwindling until the manager’s contract expires on June 30.

It is not even clear whether Mike Ashley will sell up, with Sheikh Khaled known to be leading the way in the battle for ownership of the club, and that will not be helping to persuade the likes of Perez to stay.

The 25-year-old has two years remaining on his contract and Newcastle are well positioned to demand a fee of around £20m after his impressive Premier League season when he scored 12 times. It is his best campaign so far since moving from Tenerife five years ago.

Perez said: “I didn’t know what was coming. I have no idea, to be honest. But what I know is that I cannot thank Newcastle - the city, the club, everything around - for what they have given me.

"I say again, I wasn’t even a professional. I came to a different world, and I cannot thank Newcastle enough for what they gave me.

“It’s been five unbelievable years, ups and downs, unforgettable moments, bad moments, but it’s part of the process that made me a better footballer and person. Obviously, it’s always going to be in my heart, whatever happens. This place, this city, this club - everything is going to be in my heart forever.”

Asked if it would be hard to leave Newcastle, he said: "Yes, that's something that's always in (my) mind. This kind of environment ... you don't see it in many places. We'll see what happens.

“It's going to be a long summer, whatever can happen. I cannot guarantee anything, but we'll see. It's time to rest, to enjoy and be with my family and friends. We'll see.”

Perez has hinted previously he would be interested in a return to Spain after a five-year stint in the North-East and, speaking a couple of weeks ago, he said: “It’s something that I cannot say right now. You cannot guarantee it. We’ll see.

“It’s going to be a long summer. Obviously, there’s going to be a day where you make a decision. It depends on many things. Let’s see what happens. Obviously, this place is always going to be in my heart, whatever happens. We’ll see what happens.”

But Perez can take pride in his performances for Newcastle, particularly in the last nine months when he has shown he has the potential to be a top talent in the Premier League.

He said: “The confidence has been growing month by month, playing good games, getting results, knowing each other. That’s the important thing. In our case, the strikers need to score goals, we have been linking pretty well.

“Also, some signings have helped us a lot. At the end, everything comes together and has been important for us. The confidence that the team showed has been impressive.

“To be fair, it was a challenge for myself as well coming here. The people from the Canary Islands are very famous for … as soon as we go away from home, we’re missing home, and we always try to get back home as soon as possible - one or two years and we want to go back home!

“I’ve been here five years, which is a long time. Also the challenge that not many Spanish players have had success in this club. All those challenges, I took them, and I think it’s been an amazing five years for myself, and I could grow up as a professional in this club.”

While that does sound like Perez is seriously considering leaving Tyneside, he knows playing for Newcastle – and the demands that brings – has made him a much stronger person as he strives to improve further.

He said: “It’s part of the process - you have to accept it. When you’re not playing as well as you wish, you sometimes get critics, and it’s part of the sport. Every player gets it, but it’s the way you react.

“Mentally, you have to be very strong, and in this case I could go through and now I’m just thinking it’s been a great season for us, another great end to the season for myself, and for the team as well we cannot ignore the fact that we’re not spending so much money in our team and we’re still fighting.”

Perez is not the only Newcastle player being linked with moves away from St James’ Park amid the uncertainty around. Jamaal Lascelles has been linked in the last 24 hours with an interest from Roma, while Benitez himself has been touted for a possible return to Chelsea.