Rafa Benitez reiterates position on Aleksandar Mitrovic as clubs register interest in Newcastle striker

Rafa Benitez says Aleksandar Mitrovic can earn himself a Premier League chance at Newcastle United '“ by redoubling his efforts in training.

Monday, 13th November 2017, 5:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 8:48 am
Aleksandar Mitrovic is being kept out of the side by Joselu.

Mitrovic – who scored for Serbia against China on Friday – has only played 30 minutes of league football so far this season.

Some fans chanted for the striker introduced in Newcastle’s last game, the home defeat to Bournemouth.

But Benitez – who, unusually, played a 4-4-2 system in the 1-0 defeat – kept him on the bench.

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Asked what Mitrovic had to do to get a game, United’s manager said: “It’s the same for everyone.

“The players who aren’t playing at the moment have to carry on training and training hard, and then if they get an opportunity, make the most of it.

“Dwight Gayle was working hard. He was unlucky to get his goal disallowed (against Bournemouth), and this was it.”

Mitrovic, keen to be playing week in, week out, is wanted by a number of clubs.

There is interest from the Championship – and abroad – in the 23-year-old, signed from Anderlecht in the summer of 2015.

But he will only be allowed to leave St James’s Park in January’s transfer window if Benitez is able to secure a replacement.

And Mitrovic’s future at United seemingly hinges on Benitez’s January transfer budget – and that, in turn, will be determined by the ongoing takeover talks.

Benitez and his staff are drawing up lists of targets ahead of the window.

However, they do not yet know how much they will have to spend, though owner Mike Ashley has indicated that there will be money available should a takeover not be completed by the New Year.

In the meantime, Benitez – who fielded Dwight Gayle and Joselu up front against Bournemouth – could again use a 4-4-2 system.

“I wasn’t unhappy with the formation,” said Benitez. “It’s more about the players you have available.

“Sometimes this season we’ve been playing it already. In defence, sometimes we are playing 4-4-2. The system changes when we go forward.

“It depends on the job they have to do and the characters in the players.”

Asked if Mitrovic could fit into the system, Benitez added: “Why not?”