Fernandez admits survival is the primary aim but is ready for the fight
New arrival Federico Fernandez has admitted Newcastle's primary target is simply to survive this campaign.
The 29-year-old defender joined the Magpies from Swansea on transfer deadline day for a reported fee of Â£6million, making the Argentine Rafa Benitez’s seventh signing of the window.
Even so, it is no secret that Newcastle were among the lowest Premier League spenders this summer, and, despite the club’s 10th-place finish last season, Fernandez is under no illusions about the task at hand.
“Our first objective has to be just to stay up. And then, depending on how we start, we can think about looking forward and finishing as high in the table as possible,” he said.
“But at the moment, with the speculation that is around, with how much rival teams have improved, it will be tough.
“The Premier League is the best in the world so we need to be focused if we want to start well.”
Benitez confirmed that Fernandez won’t be in the squad to face Tottenham on Saturday, mainly because the defender has only had a couple of days to train with his new team-mates.
Still, Fernandez could be a key player for Newcastle this campaign after accruing 128 Premier League appearances for Swansea.
He also knows Benitez well from their time together at Napoli, where the defender won two Coppa Italia titles before moving to south Wales in 2014.
“He is great,” said Fernandez, when asked about his relationship with Benitez.
“We did very well together at Napoli and after four years, we are back together again. I know how he works, I know his staff and I know how he can improve players and I still think he can improve me.
“One of the big points of Rafa is the work he does on the training ground. He keeps improving individuals and keeps improving the team so I am happy to be working with him again.
"I need to show my ability here and impress him every day. If I do that, I will keep getting better.”
That hunger to keep improving will be key if Fernandez is to become a success at St James’ Park, especially when the centre-back will be competing with captain Jamaal Lascelles and new signing Fabian Schar.
Even so, after a brief chat with his former manager, it was an easy decision to move to the North East.
“He [Benitez] did not have to say too much to me. He kept on stressing the team spirit we have here in the dressing room,” said the defender.
“I knew that if I signed for Newcastle, I was joining a great team with great fans so I did not need much motivation to stay in the Premier League.
“Rafa is always enthusiastic. He expends a lot of energy every day trying to improve things, trying to make the club and the team better.”