MEHDI Abeid closer than ever to first-team football at Newcastle United - after his Greek odyssey.
The midfielder’s days at St James’s Park were seemingly numbered when he was shipped out on loan a year ago.
But Abeid starred during his year at Panathinaikos.
Abeid helped the Athens - whose technical director is former Newcastle defender Nicos Dabizas - club win the Greek Cup.
And Panathinaikos were keen to sign him on a permanent deal.
United manager Alan Pardew, however, has all but ruled out a move for the 22-year-old, who could get a chance in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup tie against Gillingham.
The 22-year-old, an unused substitute against Manchester City at St James’s Park last weekend, was in the squad for this afternoon’s game at Aston Villa.
Pardew said: “I’ve spoken to him this week.
“I’ve been impressed with him in his pre-season work, and he’s closer now than he’s ever been to the first team.
“I think he’ll be all year battling for a place. He hasn’t started, as you know, but he’s very much in my thoughts.”
Abeid also helped Panathinaikos qualify for the Champions League, though the team was knocked out of the competition earlier this month.
Pardew was kept informed of Abeid’s progress in Greece.
“It was a season where he did absolutely terrifically on loan,” said Pardew.
“There are still question marks, obviously, but he’s a lot closer to the group.”
Abeid joined Newcastle from Lens in the summer of 2011, but the Algeria Under-23 international found opportunities hard to come by in his first two seasons on Tyneside.
A technically-gifted player, Abeid can play as a defensive or attacking midfielder.