Former Newcastle United striker John Barnes believes that the Magpies are miles away from making a return to Champions League football, arguing that the Premier League club are years away from even competing for the top four.
Barnes played for Newcastle from 1997 to 1999, scoring six goals in 27 appearances. The former England international was also part of the Newcastle squad that made the 1998 FA Cup final, but was left on the bench for the final itself, which the Magpies lost 2-0 to Arsenal.
Barnes was speaking at an event celebrating the 20th anniversary of Newcastle's historic victory over Barcelona in the Champions League. Barnes was then asked at the event whether he thought Rafa Benitez's current Newcastle side could come close to relieving the glory days of Newcastle in the late 1990s.
The former Liverpool star responded, ''That was a Champions League game and you can't see Newcastle getting back there in the next two or three years at least. But they are back in the Premier League and it may take them time to challenge again to even get in the top seven or eight,'' Barnes told the Chronicle.
''Getting back to the top four is something I can't see in the near future. But it's a big club and if they cement their place in the Premier League and look forward, why not? Although, I can't see it in the next few years.''
Barnes believes that Newcastle should set their sights a little lower, and then build up to pushing for the European places.
''Newcastle these days need to make sure they stay in the Premier League and then look for an opportunity to push into the top 10, then maybe the top six in the next few years. Long-term, they can look higher.''