Pardew was particularly impressed with the 26-year-old after the goalless draw against ADO Den Haag on Saturday, revealing that he was not in such good shape last summer.
The Ivorian went on to enjoy a strong season on Tyneside regardless, helping them secure qualification for the Europa League, and the 51-year-old boss expects him to be even better during the current campaign.
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"He didn’t come back well last summer, if I'm honest. However, he has summered well this time and is in great physical shape. It's going to be a big season for Cheick.
"All my, what I would call big players, are important if we are to progress as a team, and Cheick certainly falls into that category. He is in a good place."
Pardew was also left delighted with the displays turned in by his other key men as the Magpies continue to prepare for the season opener at home against Tottenham on August 18.
"Fabricio Coloccini is just immense for us," he enthused. "On Saturday, he just looked like himself, which is a top centre-half. So I'm happy with that.
"Tim Krul looked like Tim, if you know what I mean, as did Jonas Gutierrez who was really sharp as well.
"We can't do as much as we want to without these guys in the team and playing well. We need to them be fit and in the team all season."