Former Newcastle United loan star Jetro Willems has told The Chronicle that he would love to seal a move back to St James’ Park this summer.
The Dutch international has not kicked a ball since he picked up a knee injury against Chelsea in January 2020, but is a free agent this summer following his release from Eintracht Frankfurt.
Willems was a fan favourite during his time on Tyneside, remembered best for his two strikes against Liverpool and Man City, his explosive performances from left wing-back and his loveable partnership, both on and off the pitch, with Allan Saint-Maximin
To begin with, he spoke about how difficult life has been for him since picking up that injury, discussed his summer pans and left the door wide open for an emotional return to the North East:
“It hasn’t been easy all this time but I’ve been ready to play since December.
“I was in the squad (at Eintracht Frankfurt) for half a year – obviously I didn’t get the chance to show myself and to play for some reasons and everyone knows what they are. But I’m feeling good, my knee is really good and everything feels great. I’m ready.
“I had great time at Newcastle and for me I want something else. I had a good time in Germany and won some titles and some nice things but I wanted something else.
“Of course Newcastle is a very nice option for me. I was there for a long time – like, half a year – and I was enjoying the moment there. It’s a great option and it’s a club which knows me, I know them. It would be great to join them.
“I was building up strength in my knee and just recovering and everything – training for half a year so I think it’s now two years since I had a vacation. We both agreed to have a little holiday and re-assess when I come back.”
During his time at the club, Willems formed a strong partnership with fellow crowd pleaser Allan Saint-Maximin.
He admits to still being in regular contact with the winger, reveals more about his “nice guy” personality and even claims to have never missed a Newcastle game since his loan spell was cut short last year:
“I watch every Newcastle game and me and Allan still chat a lot. He’s a great guy, a great player and in those final games of the season you saw how important he is for the team in a different way, in a different role.
“He didn’t play on the left side in those matches, he played through the middle so it was interesting. He did a great job there, helped the team a lot and when you saw with Wilson and Willock, they did a great job in the end of the season.
“We just communicate really well and build the strength and you could see that on the pitch and also off it.
“I saw Allan won a community award at the end of the season and I was so happy for him. He’s not what people think. He’s a different guy – a very nice guy. If you see a picture and see the clothes he wears, everything is shiny and looks a certain way but he’s not like that. He’s a soft guy, a nice guy.
“He’s always laughing so that’s why people may be surprised that he won that title.”
Willems was inundated with positive farewell wishes when his brief loan spell came to an end. This clearly had an impact on him, and is partly the reason why he is desperate to return to the club.
“Those messages from Newcastle fans on social media helped to get me through.
“Football isn’t always honest, you know?
“Either you accept it or you walk away. But I didn’t walk away – I told myself every day there would be better days.
“I think if people do bad things to good people, it will come for them. So I was always like: ‘No problem, just continue’. It’s preparing me for the next step and what comes next.
“So to see the direction of the fans, it helps you, it keeps you alive. Even if I would put a smiley emoji the fans would say ‘That’s for Newcastle!’ or ‘Come back to Newcastle!’
Question marks remain over his fitness after being out of action so long, but Willems would certainly be an astute signing if he manages to pass a medical.
He provides a different option on the left flank and more than impressed while here last time. Still only 27, he has plenty of time on his side to prove the doubters wrong and get back to the level we know he can be at.