Jamaal Lascelles has reiterated his commitment to Newcastle United – after being linked with a move away from the club.
Lascelles, Rafa Benitez’s captain, led the team to a 10th-placed finish in the Premier League this season.
The defender – who signed a new contract early in the campaign – was outstanding in the heart of Benitez’s defence.
Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Everton have been linked with big-money summer moves for Lascelles, who joined the club in the summer of 2014 from Nottingham Forest.
However, the former England Under-21 international – who guided Newcastle to the Championship title last season – isn’t looking to leave St James’s Park.
Lascelles says he’s “very happy” at the club.
“This is the happiest I’ve been,” said Lascelles. “I’m playing week in, week out, and I’m the captain here.
“The fans love me. I’ve got a good relationship with them, because I love them. And we’re doing well, too.
“I’m very happy here. You hear things – you hear rumours and stuff – but I’m a young player, and I need to be playing football at a good club – and that’s what this is.
“Overall, it’s been an unreal season as far as I’m concerned, both for me personally, and, more importantly, for the club.”
This is the happiest I’ve been. I’m playing week in, week out, and I’m the captain here. The fans love me. I’ve got a good relationship with them, because I love them. And we’re doing well, too.Jamaal Lascelles
Lascelles, like Benitez, wants the club to carry on up the table next season.
The Derby-born player, under contract at United until the summer of 2023, believes he’s at the “right club at the right time”.
“This is the right club for me at the right time,” said Lascelles.
“We have a huge fanbase, an amazing manager, and this club is massive. It has so much history.
“As captain, I want to see how far we can go – and, potentially, take it back to where it belongs.”
Newcastle manager Benitez addressed Lascelles’ future earlier this month after Tottenham and Everton were linked with him.
Asked if he would consider selling him, Benitez said: “Not really. If you want to continue growing, normally you have to try to keep your best players.
“Jamaal has a great potential, but if you cannot compete or you cannot keep the level of your team, then maybe you have to sell one player to be sure that you can bring in other players.
“When people say ‘wheel and deal’ – sometimes you have to do it ,because if not, you don’t have the money.
“If you don’t have the money, the main thing is to be sure that if you sell this one for £40million, you have two at £20million who can do well, then you can be better.”
Lascelles has been as influential off the field as he has been on it.
“Some players are key players not just because they play well, also because their relationship with the others and with the fans and their influence, their character and all those other things,” said Benitez. “He’s a key player for us.”