'I regard him as my father': Newcastle winger opens up on relationship with Rafa Benitez

Christian Atsu has paid tribute to manager Rafa Benitez, claiming that he sees the Newcastle manager as a father-figure.

Christian Atsu has opened up on his relationship with Rafa Benitez
Christian Atsu has opened up on his relationship with Rafa Benitez

The 26-year-old initially signed for Newcastle on a season-long loan from Chelsea during Benitez's first full campaign in charge, and helped guide the side back to the Premier League at the first attempt.

Atsu's stay at St James's Park was then made permanent and he has gone on to make 65 appearances during his time on Tyneside, scoring seven times.

But fans have grown frustrated with some recent performances from the Ghanaian, with Benitez mainly using the winger from the bench during the early stages of the Premier League campaign.

Yet Atsu, speaking to Hello FM in homeland, has moved to clarify why his performances have slipped this season after he started life at the club so brightly.

The winger revealed earlier this summer that he was set to undergo knee surgery to correct a long-standing problem which he had hidden during his first two years at St James's Park.

And Atsu feels he is still not fully recovered after the operation - but he is keen to hit top form soon.

"The surgery I had has affected me in several ways,” he admitted.

“This is my third season with Newcastle United. My first season was when I joined them on loan from Chelsea in the Championship and had enough playing time. Eventually, we qualified back to the Premier League.

“In the second season, I played a lot of games but things have changed this time around because of the surgery I underwent before the World Cup. It has really affected my play because I’ve been a little slow but I’m working hard to hit top form soon."

As Atsu continues to hit the comeback trail, he is thankful for the support of his manager, who he revealed has been understanding about the situation.

And the ex-Porto man opened up on his relationship with the Spaniard, which he likened to that of a father and son.

"Rafael Benitez understands my situation and he is trying his best for me," added Atsu.

"In fact, he has in a way adopted me as his son and I regard him as my father too."