On paper the choice between Real Madrid or Barcelona and Newcastle United should have been a relatively simple one. But, despite his claims of interest from La Liga‘s big two, Ayoze Pérez ended up at St James' Park in the summer of 2015.

“Yes, there was interest from those clubs [Barcelona and Real Madrid],” Pérez told The Guardian in 2016. “The truth is that the Newcastle bid was quite surprising because firstly there were other teams interested.

“But they pushed very hard to get me. I feel they really valued me. We had to consider the different options and I finally decided to come to Newcastle.

“I have always loved the Premier League but the main reason to come here was how Newcastle valued myself. I felt very appreciated by the club and that was the reason which made me opt to come here.”

Signed for a paltry £1.5million after bagging 16 goals the previous season for second-tier Tenerife, the attacking midfielder-cum-forward has shown little in the years since to suggest Real and Barça would have been disappointed to miss out on his services.

The Spaniard opened his account for the season in Sunday's 2-2 draw at Southampton, darting between Maya Yoshida and Liverpool transfer target Virgil van Dijk before hammering home from an acute angle at the second attempt.

It was a goal which summed up the 24-year-old's relentless approach to the game. Predominantly in the No.10 position, a role oft-inhabited by the lazier types, Pérez is anything but.

The slicked back hair, slight frame and technical excellence might not point to a player who performs the role Pérez does but he is integral to Rafael Benítez's Newcastle system.

When Pérez was withdrawn with 27 minutes remaining at St Mary's remaining the Magpies were leading 2-1. But without the Tenerife native the visitors pressed with noticeably less vigour and intensity than they had during the hour he was on the field.

It was, therefore, not a huge surprise that Southampton had a sting in the tail. With 15 minutes remaining, Manolo Gabbiadini scored his second, from the penalty spot, to give the Saints a much-needed point.

Ayoze Pérez has made 14 tackles this season

The statistics back up Pérez's importance to how Newcastle defend. With 14 tackles this season, at an average of 1.8 per game, the Spaniard has made the joint third most in the Premier League this season and the fifth-most of any Newcastle player.

Conversely, Pérez is also the joint fifth most tackled player in the top flight this season, losing possession 21 times, a statistic which underlines his importance to the Magpies carrying the ball forward.

And when in possession he is proving his worth to Benítez's side. Pérez averages 1.8 shots (fourth at Newcastle), 1.3 key passes (fourth) and 1.4 dribbles (third) per Premier League game this season, an indicator of his importance on both sides of the ball.

Even the most ardent Newcastle fan would concede Pérez is unlikely to ever become the player Real and Barcelona thought they might be signing two years ago. But if he can become a Galactico for Newcastle that should ensure he becomes a popular figure on Tyneside.

Premier League