Ayoze Perez reflects on his timely return to form '“ and Newcastle's '˜amazing' season
Ayoze Perez says 10 is the magic number for him '“ and Newcastle United.
The forward took his goal tally for the season to 10 with two strikes in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Chelsea at St James’s Park.
Perez, Benitez’s No 10, scored six goals in the club’s last eight games.
And the 24-year-old’s goals helped secure a 10th-placed Premier League finish for Newcastle.
“I’m so happy to be able to end the season scoring lots of goals,” said Perez.
“Two goals against Chelsea, another two at St James’s Park, and 10 is a great number for me.
“But, if I’m honest, what I’m most pleased about is that we finished in 10th place, because we deserved to finish there at the end of the season.”
United, promoted last season, were tipped to go straight back down.
And Perez has told of his “pride” at the team’s achievement.
“It’s been an amazing season for the team,” said Perez.
“We have to be proud of ourselves, because we have done a great job all year.
“Against Chelsea, we finished things off with a great performance and ended in 10th position, which is a great achievement.
“The city has to be proud of the team, and we also have to be proud of ourselves.”
Benitez’s side came through some difficult periods, notably late last year, and secured their top-flight status with five games left to play.
Perez had his critics in the first half of the season, when he only scored one goal.
However, the former Spain Under-21 international, signed from Tenerife in 2014, repaid Benitez’s faith in him in the final few months of the campaign.
“We’ve had ups and downs during the whole season, but I want to give lots of credit to the team,” said Perez.
“We stuck together when we had and we achieved our main target.
“After that, we managed to keep such a great position for Newcastle this season, and that’s why we can celebrate this summer.”
Perez and his team-mates are now waiting to see if Benitez commits his longer-term future to the club.
Representatives of Newcastle’s manager are in talks with managing director Lee Charnley over a new deal.
However, the 58-year-old – who has one year left on his United contract – will only commit if he is satisfied that the club’s ambitions match his own.
Benitez wants to compete for trophies and European football.
“Rafa is key for our future,” said Perez. “He made us reach this position of 10th in the table, just one year after going up, so it’s a great achievement with the squad we’ve got.
“We have to look after him, take him seriously and listen to what he wants, and hopefully we can keep him here.”
Meanwhile, Joselu has high hopes for next season.
The striker said: “We need to enjoy the summer, and, next season, try to do the best thing for us, because we have ambitions in this league.”