Jamaal Lascelles says keeping Rafa Benitez at Newcastle United is a no-brainer – and the club should do everything it can to make it happen.
Lascelles and his team-mates secured Premier League safety with a 3-1 win over Southampton on Saturday – and the focus is now on the future of Benitez, who is out of contract in the summer.
Benitez – who handed Lascelles the captaincy three years ago – wants more backing, and autonomy, in the transfer market and investment in the club’s facilities.
READ MORE: Rafa Benitez has a simple message for Mike Ashley as he considers his Newcastle United future
Asked if he wanted Benitez to stay, Lascelles said: “It’s a bit of a silly question – yes, of course.
“Since he’s been here, we’ve been doing really well. Even in the season we got relegated, he came in and we started winning games. In the Championship season we came first, 10th last year and now we’re finishing strong this year.
“Of course, as players we want him here, but we’re not in control of whatever’s going on. But, hopefully, he gets tied down.”
Lascelles says that Benitez has commanded the respect of every player since he was appointed.
“As players, when you get a manager in for the first couple of days and the first week, you want to impress him so much,” said the 25-year-old.
“But with Rafa, that has stayed for the whole time he has been here. Even with me, I know him very well now – we’ve been working together for a long time – but I still want to impress him every single session, every single day.
“I guess when he’s got all that respect off all the players, it brings a hard-working team and a hard-working team is tough to beat.”
Benitez stayed calm early in the season when his team, struggling at the foot of the Premier League.
“Even at the start of the season, when everyone is panicking and we’ve got all those big teams to play and we find ourselves down in the bottom three, he stays so calm,” said Lascelles. “He knows his players, he trusts his own ability to get the best out of his players, and that’s such an important thing for a manager to have.”
Benitez went on to the field to speak to Lascelles after the Southampton game.
However, United’s manager wasn’t congratulating Lascelles.
Asked about their conversation, Lascelles said: “It was just about Southampton’s goal – he’s a perfectionist.
“He will praise you when it’s due. But if it’s not 100% ,he will tell you. It’s learning.
“That’s why I’ve come on leaps and bounds. He’s not going to praise you if you don’t keep a clean sheet.
“He’s going to think about the chances they’ve had and what you could have done to stop it, and I think that’s excellent from him.
“I should have done better with that goal – it shouldn’t have even been a cross. So I will be sat down in his office, and he will be grilling me about that like we lost the game. But that’s him for you, and as players we all appreciate that.”
Asked if he was concerned that Benitez would leave, Lascelles said: “Yes, of course it does. There aren’t many managers like him.
“Of course, as players, we want him here, and Newcastle should do everything he can to keep him.”
Lascelles also praised Ayoze Perez, who scored a hat-trick against Southampton.
“Recently, he has been unreal – in training and in games,” said Lascelles. “He’s not the fastest of players, but he just skips by players. I don’t know what it is, his balance or his dribbling.
“He works so hard. He is up there with the most interceptions as well, most tackles. He does do a lot of the dirty work as well as scoring goals. He has been a key player for us this season.”