Rafa Benitez left frustrated at Newcastle after midfielder talks fail
Rafa Benitez will lose Ki Sung-yueng to the Asian Cup after the Fulham game '“ even though Heung-min Son won't go until the middle of next month.
Ki will miss Newcastle United’s hectic festive period so he can join his international team-mates for a training camp in Abu Dhabi.
Benitez had hoped to keep the midfielder, an influential player over the past two months, for longer.
However, talks with South Korea coach Paulo Bento came to nothing, and Ki was told to travel to the United Arab Emirates after this afternoon’s home game against Fulham.
If South Korea reach the final, Ki will not be back on Tyneside until early February.
Tottenham forward Son Heung-min will link up with the squad after the his club’s Premier League game against Manchester United on January 13 because of an agreement with the previous coach.
Newcastle forward Yoshinori Muto, called up by Japan for the tournament, will link up with his international colleagues after the January 2 home game against Manchester United.
“Ki will go December 26 and we don’t know when he will come back,” said United manager Benitez.
“Muto will go January 3 after Manchester United.
“I was trying (to get Ki to stay for longer), but they couldn’t change.”
Ki – who missed most of Newcastle’s pre-season campaign because of his involvement with South Korea’s World Cup campaign – has come into his own in recent weeks.
With Jonjo Shelvey sidelined with an injury, Ki has been playing week in, week out.
“He came from the World Cup and needed some time to recover,” said Benitez.
“Jonjo and (Mohamed) Diame were doing well. He didn’t have the space.
“When he had the space, he was doing well, because he’s a good player.
“We were trying our best (to keep him for longer), but we couldn’t change the situation.”
Benitez – whose side beat Huddersfield Town 1-0 last weekend thanks to a goal from Salomon Rondon to move up to 14th place in the Premier League – doesn’t expect to have Shelvey available for the Boxing Day game against Liverpool at Anfield.
“Liverpool will be too close, maybe,” said Benitez.
“He’s getting better and pushing. I was talking with him.
“He’s pushing, but we have to be careful.
“We have to play the way that we can play.”
Meanwhile, defender Federico Fernandez – who sat out the Huddersfield fixture – is back from injury for the Fulham game.
However, Ciaran Clark and Karl Darlow will miss the game, along with Shelvey, because of injuries.
“Shelvey, we still need to check how he’s progressing,” said Benitez.
“He’s doing well. We have lost Clark, who has a problem with his ankle after the (Huddersfield) game.
“Fede is fine and the rest of the players are fine.
“(Florian) Lejeune has been training, so to be fair, we have now Jonjo and Clark, and also Darlow, who still has a problem with his elbow.”