Florian Lejeune thought Rafa Benitez was a “prank caller” when he phoned to lure him to Newcastle.
The French defender signed from Spanish club Eibar for £8.7million and hopes to become the Toon’s No1 centre back.
Lejeune had what he described as a “complicated” period at Manchester City but happy to return to the Premier League on Tyeside where he says football is a “religion.”
He said: “For many years, my career was going up and down and up and down. Getting a call from Rafael Benitez was absolutely amazing, and I could only say yes. It was like a dream.
“When I got the call, I thought it was a prank so I didn’t say anything.
“After a few hours, I said, ‘Yes, that’s Rafael Benitez’.
“I don’t see this as a risk at all. I’m coming to Newcastle which is a great club. It’s always been a great club. Having Rafa Benitez as a coach too, I’m not taking risks here.”
Lejeune didn’t play for City and was loaned to Girona, and he described it as a “strange” experience.
He said: “What happened in Manchester City, as far as I’m concerned it never happened, I wasn’t there, I never played there. I’ve come to play for Newcastle and that’s it – I’m happy.”
He is a “close friend” of new Arsenal signing Alexandre Lacazette and added: “The fact he has signed with Arsenal is no surprise to me. I have always known he was a great forward.
“In the past, he was often the best player in the team. They have signed a goalscorer – in the last three or four years, he has been putting in at least 20 goals a season so he is definitely a goalscorer.”