Rafa Benitez responds to questions on Christian Atsu's future at Newcastle

Christian Atsu is playing his way into Rafa Benitez's longer-term plans.

Christian Atsu.
Christian Atsu.

Atsu, on a season-long loan from Chelsea, was Newcastle United’s man of the match against Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday night.

The winger set up Ayoze Perez’s 89th-minute winner at the Amex Stadium.

Atsu, looking to “settle” at a club after years of loans, is hoping to win a permanent move to St James’s Park in the summer.

Benitez does not have to make a decision on the 25-year-old until the end of the Championship campaign.

But United’s manager has been happy with the Ghana international’s contribution so far this season.

Asked about Atsu’s future, Benitez said: “His future is very clear. If he plays against Huddersfield, he has to be man of the match again!

“We have plenty of time, so no problem. He is doing well.

“He was doing well before, and after playing a lot of games in the Africa Cup of Nations, he has come back and regained his form little by little.

“That is quite good. We are really pleased with him. Hopefully, he can play well until the end.”

Atsu, named in the team of the Africa Cup of Nations last month, has acknowledged that he is at an important stage of his career.

Benitez said: “I didn’t need to challenge him. He’s professional and he knows. He knows I have confidence in him.

“He’s playing good football because he’s a good player and everybody is supporting him.”

Atsu gives Benitez a different option to Yoan Gouffran, who has regularly been used on the left wing this season.

“When we were watching players for this position in the summer, we were looking for someone like him,” said Benitez. “He can pass and run behind defenders and create and score goals. We are happy with him.”