Jamaal Lascelles points to Rafa Benitez to explain his re-emergence as a cornerstone of Newcastle’s starting XI

Jamaal Lascelles with Rafa Bentiez.
Jamaal Lascelles with Rafa Bentiez.

Jamaal Lascelles believes he has improved as a player, captain and individual under the guidance of Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez.

And the 23-year-old Magpies skipper has vowed to only keep getting better under the tutelage of the Spaniard.

“I have improved leaps and bounds since he has been here,” Lascelles said of Benitez, who selected his the central defender as captain in his first full season on Tyneside.

“That’s not just as a footballer, but as a person and as a captain.

“And I am still young – I still think I have got a lot to offer.

“Obviously I am still young but, for me, all I see ahead are exciting times.

“As a centre-half and a captain you don’t tend to peak until you are a lot older.

“I know I have still got a lot of growing to do in terms of the way I play, and as a leader.”

Lascelles is a young leader in a very young dressing room – United have, so far, on average fielded the most youthful starting XI in the top flight, with only Liverpool getting close.

It’s not only the captain who has a lot of growing to do.

Lascelles feels the best is yet to come from him, and the rest of the United squad.

“It is early on in my career but I still feel like there is a lot more to come,” he said.

“I am pleased the manager is here, we have great fans and I have good people around me – everything is in place for me, I just have to remain humble and stay focused on my job.”

Lascelles was rewarded for his remarkable form this season with a contract which could see him remain in black and white until 2023.

It is a huge deal for United to dish out, which goes some way to showing the faith Benitez has in the player.

Lascelles himself was “over the moon” to get that kind of security.

“The new contract will take me to about 29 or 30,” he said. “I am really happy to have that commitment here at this club.

“I know we have got so much more potential – I want to us to try and get as high as we can with this club.”