Rafa Benitez responds to speculation over Aleksandar Mitrovic’s future at Newcastle

Aleksandar Mitrovic, centre

Aleksandar Mitrovic, centre

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Rafa Benitez says he’s unconcerned about speculation over Aleksandar Mitrovic’s future at Newcastle United.

West Ham United and Crystal Palace have been linked with January moves for the striker.

Leaving him and Mitrovic out of the squad and the team is not easy.

Mitrovic, signed from Anderlecht last year in a £13million deal, has been on the bench for much of the season.

But Newcastle manager Benitez insists the 22-year-old, second-choice behind summer signing Dwight Gayle, is “happy” to wait for his chance at the Championship club.

Asked about speculation over Mitrovic’s future, Benitez said: “It happens.

“Players have agents, so if they are not playing somebody will try to move him on because he thinks it will be fine, and there is commission in the middle.

“That is the problem with football now.”

Benitez – who also has Daryl Murphy competing for a place up front – admits it is “difficult” to decide who will play and who will be on the bench.

“The most difficult thing is to decide who will be in the squad and the team,” said Benitez, whose league leading side take on Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium this afternoon.

“I have to make these decisions, because Daryl Murphy is doing really well. He is very professional and a good finisher.

“Leaving him and Mitrovic out of the squad and the team is not easy.

“Dwight, the top scorer in the league, is also doing well and we have other strikers who could be playing.

“We have to keep them training well and coaching them properly. Even when they are not playing, you have to try your best for them, too.

“Mitrovic would like to play, but he is training well and is quite happy.”