Rafa Benitez: Lack of leaders at Newcastle is same across football – and may be social media issue

Newcastle United captain Fabricio Coloccini
Newcastle United captain Fabricio Coloccini

Rafa Benitez says he isn’t too concerned about a lack of leaders in his Newcastle United team – as he believes it’s the same at a lot of clubs now.

One of the criticisms levelled at the Magpies in recent seasons has been the lack of strong characters in the squad.

Fabricio Coloccini has been Newcastle captain for the last five seasons since Kevin Nolan was sold to West Ham United.

The Argentinian, however, isn’t the most vocal player either on or off the pitch, while the squad has seen big characters like Joey Barton, Steve Harper, Shola Ameobi and Yohan Cabaye also leave the club.

Benitez is used to working with the likes of Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and David Albelda, but says there is now a lack of leadership in the modern game – not just on Tyneside.

And he saysthe rise of social media, including Twitter and Facebook, may have played a part in players becoming more selfish and less interested in the team’s needs.

Asked about a perceived shortage of leaders at Newcastle, Benitez said: “Believe me it’s the same at the majority of the teams now.

“You have good professionals but you don’t have too many leaders.

“For me the leaders have to be an example on the pitch, outside the pitch, and they have to have the respect of the other players, the staff, etc.

“I think that now, with the social network and things, they think about themselves and they don’t normally think about the team.”

While individual players may not be thinking about the team, however, Benitez certainly is.

He has urged his players to stick together even if they aren’t part of the first team at the minute, using the example of how Czech attacker Vladimir Smicer came out of the cold to help Liverpool win the 2005 Champions League.

Benitez believes one of Newcastle’s fringe men could end up being the hero in the battle to avoid relegation from the Premier League.

He added: “We are trying to keep everyone together and to realise how important it is to stick together now because when we have very, very good players, they can decide games on their own.

“But here we need to make sure that we are a team because we have just eight games to play and we have to make sure that everyone can give to this situation.

“I was telling people in the final (Liverpool 2005): ‘If you are not playing, maybe you can be important in the future, so carry on doing your job.’

“And Smicer, he scored the second goal – he was a player who was not playing too many games and he was scoring in the final.

“So every single player here, they can give you something; maybe in the last game they can score the winning goal or make a save, and maybe it will be the crucial save or the crucial goal.

“If they can do that, I will be really pleased because we will be really strong.”