Rafa Benitez discusses a permanent Newcastle move for Islam Slimani
Rafa Benitez says Islam Slimani still has a chance of earning a move to Newcastle United.
The striker has only made two substitute’s appearances for the club since joining on loan from Leicester City in January.
Slimani came off the bench and set up Matt Ritchie’s winner against Arsenal in Newcastle’s last game.
And Benitez – whose side take on Everton at Goodison Park tonight – intends to take a close look at the 29-year-old in United’s remaining five Premier League games.
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Newcastle’s manager is prepared to change a winning team so he can assess Slimani and others before the end of the season.
“I think he’s fit enough to start,” said Benitez. “He’s been training well.”
Slimani directed a header downwards which was flicked to Matt Ritchie by Ayoze Perez against Arsenal.
“He was fine,” said Benitez. “We needed energy, and I think he has pace and he brought that.
“When a player is coming from the bench, you need to see something. ‘Something’ means at the very least, he has to run. If he’s doing well, much better, but he has to run first and foremost and work hard for the team, and he did that.”
Asked what Slimani had to do to earn a permanent move to United, Benitez said: “Still he has a contract with his club, so it’s not that he’s under pressure.
“But if he’s happy here, then we want to see what he is capable of doing for us.
“But, every training session, he’s showing that he’s desperate to play for us.”
Meanwhile, Kenedy is “keen to stay” at Newcastle, according to Rafa Benitez.
The Chelsea winger is on a half-season loan at St James’s Park. Kenedy has made a significant impact on the field since arriving from Stamford Bridge in January.
The 22-year-old has scored two goals and helped United climb the Premier League table.
And Kenedy has indicated his willingness to consider a permanent move to Newcastle in the summer.
“I’ve seen the interviews and what he said,” said Benitez. “I know his agent, so the point with him is that he’s doing well. I was happy because we’ve been winning and he’s been scoring goals and that’s fantastic for us and really good news for him.
“The situation is that they need to know where they will finish, and we need to know where we will finish. There is plenty of time to talk.”
Asked about reported interest in Kenedy from other clubs, Benitez said: “You can’t change that. “If you want to win games and he’s doing well you have to play him. If he’s doing even better, than fine, fair enough.
“It will be more difficult for us, for sure, but he’s so happy he’ll be keen to stay.” Benitez, however, added: “It wasn’t easy to bring him here, and it wouldn’t be easy to bring him here again.”