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Newcastle United’s Florian Lejeune showing Rafa Benitez was right to take £8.7million risk

The Frenchman has been in fine form for the Magpies since his return from injury.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

Newcastle United have been superb in recent weeks and have climbed to safety after breaking through the 40-point mark.

Their gradual improvement over the course of the season has been great to watch and underlines the quality of their manager, Rafa Benitez.

His squad has often been spoken about as a ‘Championship squad’, but that seems harsh given their position in the Premier League table.

During the summer, Benitez was disappointed by the lack of backing that he received in the transfer window, but the additions that he did make have provided the squad with more quality.

Florian Lejeune signed from Eibar, for £8.7 million, before the season kicked off and there has been a sharp improvement in his performances recently.

The Frenchman missed a couple of months after picking up an injury towards the end of 2017.

He returned to the team against Manchester United in a game that could be considered a turning point of their season.

They started the match in the relegation zone and the three points made the supporters believe that they could climb the league table.

Since that game, the Magpies have taken 13 points from a possible 18 available and managed to move away from danger into a promising position.

(Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

The reason for their upturn in fortune hasn’t been solely down to Lejeune, but he has more than played his part.

Benitez has established a solid spine and that has been vital in the recent winning form.

Martin Dubravka, Jamaal Lascelles, Lejeune, Jonjo Shelvey, Mohamed Diame and Ayoze Perez have been regular starters down the middle of the pitch.

This group of players give Benitez a good base from which to build on over the coming season.

Defensively, Lejeune has done very well in recent weeks and been a major reason why they have only conceded two goals in their last four matches.

He averages 6.97 clearances, 0.93 tackles and 1.96 interceptions per ninety minutes, while his physicality has allowed him to adapt to the English game.

The Frenchman has won an impressive 60.78% of his aerial duals.

In addition to being an assured defender, Lejeune has managed to impress with his ball-playing ability and that has added another dimension to the Newcastle team.

He has completed 78% of his passes and showed on numerous that he can play threatening long balls over an opposition defence.

The best example of this was his assist for Ayoze Perez last weekend against Leicester.

(during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal at St. James Park on April 15, 2018 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

It was a perfectly weighted through ball to find the Spaniard and led to the team earning another three points.

Benitez may not have been given the amount of money that he believes is needed to turn Newcastle into the force they can become, but the signing of Lejeune is looking like a successful one.

There were doubts during his first few months in the country, but he has developed into a very good Premier League centre-back and his partnership with Lascelles continues to improve.

The coming summer is going to be huge for the future for the football club and the board must bend over backwards to keep their manager happy.

The success of Lejeune should encourage them to release the funds as Benitez has proven value can be found in the modern market.

Jake is a journalist based in the South East. He is a Newcastle United fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Newcastle United

Newcastle United playing with fire as Rafa Benitez deserves much better

With finances restricted once again, Rafael Benitez faces a difficult summer.

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Rafa Benitez
Photo: Getty Images

Newcastle United and manager Rafa Benitez find themselves in transfer limbo once again under the ownership of Mike Ashley, as the controversial boss continues to restrict finances.

The Sports Direct magnate has attracted plenty of criticism during his tenure in charge at St. James’ Park and he has found himself in the fan’s firing line once again following the recent admission from Rafael Benitez.

Former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss overachieved last season in the club’s return to the Premier League, securing a tenth-placed finish, but has received no sort of backing as a reward from Ashley – admitting he must ‘wheel and deal’ in the market.

“We have to wheel and deal, that is the way for us. And then we try to continue doing the right things. As soon as the price goes a little bit higher, I know that we cannot buy them.”

Newcastle United boss Benitez reveals restrictions on spending.

The issue for Newcastle is that it is certainly not the first time Ashley has restricted funds, particularly in Benitez’s spell in charge, and sees the owner go back on a promise he made in May – when he told Sky Sports ‘every penny generated’ would be available to the fan-favourite manager.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Thankfully, the Chronicle says Benitez will remain loyal to the Magpies despite the financial restrictions but alarm bells should be ringing around Tyneside, especially after Benitez told Sky Sports he had the chance to manage Spain at the World Cup.

Benitez clearly remains highly-coveted in European football and Mike Ashley’s continued desire to play with fire leaves the Magpies in a very dangerous position. After all, if Benitez does quit what manager is going to accept a move to a club where they know they will be fighting against the odds from day one under an owner who wants to jump ship?

Newcastle have been up for sale for almost a year, which the Chronicle confirms remains the case in May, but there is no signs of progression in negotiations and optimism that a deal would be completed before Christmas last year now feels a long, long way off.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Benitez deserves credit for the work he has done in the market so far, signing Ki Sung-Yeung on a free transfer and bringing Kenedy back on-loan for the season from Chelsea, as well as landing Martin Dubravka on a permanent deal from Sparta Prague.

If he can secure bargains like that with a restricted budget, then imagine what he could achieve with respectable finances to work with.

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Chelsea

Three reasons why Kenedy can become Newcastle’s talisman next season

The 22-year-old made an instant impact when he joined on loan last season.

Liam Thomas

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Kenedy
Photo: Getty Images

Newcastle United managed to acquire Kenedy’s services for another season, after bringing the silky winger in on loan last January from Chelsea.

During his time at St. James’ Park last season, the Brazilian showed glimpses of the genius that saw Chelsea bring him into their ranks from Brazilian powerhouse Fluminense and he will, in no doubt, be an extremely effective weapon for Rafael Benitez to have at his disposal next season.

But can the 22-year-old take it up a notch and become Newcastle’s star man in the 2018/19 Premier League season?

A brilliant manager to learn from

Kenedy will again have to chance to play under Spanish tactician Rafael Benitez, a manager who’s done and won it all.

Benitez seemed to get the best out of Kenedy last season for the Magpies, and the young Brazilian won’t find many other managers around who are invested in getting the very best out of their young talents.

He had a huge impact playing just half the season for Newcastle

When Kenedy arrived on Tyneside in January, Benitez’ team were struggling, and in a rut of bad form, the Brazilian played his part in turning the clubs fortunes around and helped his new side to a top half finish.

It is a mouthwatering prospect to think for Newcastle fans what Kenedy will achieve with the club given a full season with them, and now he has fully settled into life in the city, he may be able to make an even bigger impact next season.

Young, ambitious and highly rated

At 22 years of age, Kenedy is poised to have the best season of his career so far and his energetic style of play bodes well for Newcastle next season.

You only have to look back as far as April to see the kind of teams interested in taking Kenedy into their ranks for the new season. Sky Sports reported that Bayern Munich and PSG were considering launching bids for the winger; a testament to how highly rated he is.

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Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace fans should praise Roy Hodgson’s defiant Andros Townsend comments

The winger has been attracting interest from Premier League rivals.

Max Cohen

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Andros Townsend
Photo: Getty Images

In early July, Sky Sports reported Newcastle United were in talks with Crystal Palace winger Andros Townsend over a return to St. James’ Park.

Yet, Roy Hodgson’s defiant comments have quashed those rumours and will be greeted by Palace fans as a strong signal to other clubs who have aimed to buy the Eagles’ best players.

Speaking in a press conference (h/t football.london) over the weekend, the Palace manager made it clear he had no intention of selling his key squad members.

“[Townsend] has got three years on his contract, and we have no interest at all in selling Andros Townsend. We are not a selling club at the moment, far from it.

“We are working very hard to keep the players we have got, and players of big importance, and Zaha and Townsend are right up there as players we want to keep.”

(Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

Hodgson deserves praise for this strong stance, as he is sending a clear signal to rival clubs who aim to pinch settled players.

Townsend was crucial to the club’s resurgence last season under Roy Hodgson, and after Bakary Sako’s departure, the need to hold on to attackers is even more important.

By rebutting the advances of Newcastle and clubs interested in Wilfried Zaha, Hodgson not only boosts the confidence of the fans, but also the Palace players.

Knowing that your club aims to hold on to your fellow teammates means the side will be better and more exciting to play for.

Hodgson has already saved Crystal Palace from relegation, and now his stewardship can lead the club to the top half of the Premier League by keeping hold of the Eagles’ star performers.

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