Rafa Benitez makes Jonjo Shelvey claim as he gags himself from talking about Newcastle's transfer business
Rafa Benitez says Jonjo Shelvey is NOT for sale at Newcastle United.
Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri has been linked with a move for the midfielder, who will return from injury against Watford tomorrow afternoon.
Ranieri is reportedly prepared to swap one-time United target Tom Cairney for Shelvey.
Benitez, however, is adamant that Shelvey is not for sale.
Asked if he would consider selling the 26-year-old, Benitez said: “No. No chance.”
Shelvey has been sidelined since the December 1 game against West Ham United with a thigh problem.
“He’s fit, but we must decide (if he can start),” said Benitez.
“If you ask him now he’ll say ‘100%’. He has been training really well.”
Shelvey’s return is timely given that Ki Sung-yueng has linked up with his South Korea team-mates ahead of the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates next month.
Benitez said: “He’s an important player for us.
“Ki and him are the players who, technically, can pass the ball well and keep it.
“They give confidence to the rest of the team. I hope he will be as important as he was last year.”
Benitez will be again without defender Ciaran Clark and goalkeeper Karl Darlow at Vicarage Road.
Newcastle’s manager refused to talk about incoming transfers in his pre-match press conference.
Benitez had admitted to being “worried” ahead of the January transfer window after the club’s 4-0 Boxing Day defeat to Liverpool.
The defeat left the club 15th in the Premier League and five points above the relegation zone ahead of a tough run of games.
Asked why he didn’t want to discuss the window, Benitez said: “I don’t want to talk about that.
“If I don’t talk about it, then you wont need to analyse every single word I say.
“I was talking to Lee (Charnley, United’s managing director), and talking about the transfer window.
“I prefer not to talk too much, that’s it. It’s my decision.”
Asked how he felt about the window, Benitez said: “I’m not going to talk about that.”
Benitez had to sell to buy in the summer, while Newcastle’s rivals invested heavily in their squads.
Speaking after last weekend’s goalless draw against Fulham at St James’s Park, Benitez said it would be a “miracle” if the club stayed in the Premier League.
Asked if he stood by that assessment, Benitez said: “Yes.
“I have had the conversation with the players after the game, and the main thing is they understand what’s going on, and the main thing for me is they do understand what’s going on.
“We have to be really concentrated and focused on every single game.
“We cannot make mistakes. If we make mistakes, we can lose against anyone, and against the top sides it makes it even easier to lose.
“For us to get points, every thing has to be right, and we can’t make mistakes.
“The only way to make sure is that we are so focused and so concentrated on every single game, that we don’t allow the other team to exploit our weaknesses.
“I continue saying, it will be really difficult, tough. Do I have confidence we can do it? Yes. But if we do it will be because everything is right. It will be a miracle."