Ex-Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez makes big admission about Manchester United target Sean Longstaff
Longstaff, a target of Manchester United, was recalled to the starting XI for Sunday’s win over Tottenham Hotspur, which Steve Bruce’s side won 1-0.
And the midfielder – who started the previous weekend’s 3-1 defeat to Norwich City on the bench – played his part as the club secured an unexpected first Premier League victory under Bruce.
When asked about Longstaff’s potential in a fan Q&A, Benitez told the Athletic: “Since we were in Ireland in pre-season last summer, we saw him doing well and I remember having a conversation with my staff.
“I remember saying: "It is too early, he needs time."
“But we knew he could do well. What impressed me the most was his commitment, he was very keen to learn, and everything that you were saying to him he was trying to replicate on the pitch.
“We knew that he was playing more offensive and then he could score goals from the edge of the box, but his understanding of the game and his work-rate means that we could use him as one of two holding midfielders.
“I think that he was good for us in the end and he has a very good future ahead of him.
“I think he has the potential to play for England but we have to be careful when we talk too much about players and the national team.
“He is humble, he's a worker, but football can change quickly so I think it is better to be sure he continues approaching the game thinking about the next one as the most important.”
Benitez wouldn’t be drawn further on owner Mike Ashley having spoken openly about him since his summer departure but admitted he would love to return to the Premier League one day.
Asked if he would be open to a Newcastle return one day, Benitez said: “I like to enjoy the challenge I have now in China.
“I am always committed whenever I accept a challenge, but I will not hide my feelings that in the future I would like to come back to the Premier League.”