Rafa Benitez addresses Ayoze Perez's future at Newcastle United after bombshell interview
Rafa Benitez says Ayoze Perez remains committed to Newcastle United – after the forward hinted at a summer exit.
Perez has suggested that it was “time for a change” after five years at the club.
The 25-year-old – who has hit form in recent weeks alongside Salomon Rondon and Miguel Almiron – is keen to return to Spain at some point and play in La Liga.
Perez, under contract at St James’s Park for another two years, has scored five Premier League goals and has netted 27 times in the division.
And the former Spain Under-21 has not given Benitez any indication that he wants to leave this summer.
Asked about Perez’s interview, Benitez said: “He’s someone you can see who is training well and is focused.
“When we talk about the future, we talk about doing things here.
“He’s not telling me he wants to go – he’s focused here. If he can see the team is doing well, I think he will be happy.”
Perez – whose form came under scrutiny in the first half of the season – joined Newcastle as an unknown from Tenerife in 2014.
“I believe in cycles,” said Perez, set to face Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Monday night.
“There comes a moment where you consider things. There comes a time for a change, and, after five years, that time has probably come.
“To return to your country in a big team in La Liga would be something good for my career.”
Benitez’s future on Tyneside is also in doubt, though United’s manager is “prioritising” contract talks with the club after being linked with a job in China.
Guangzhou Evergrande are reportedly set to target Benitez if coach Fabio Cannavaro leaves to take over the national team in the Chinese Super League.
Benitez has put off sit-down talks until the 13th-placed club secures its Premier League status.
Asked about the latest speculation, Benitez said: “I can read what is going on in press. My priority is to keep talking Newcastle and see where we are.
“I’m not thinking about anything else.
“We have some contact, I see (managing director) Lee Charnley sometimes. It’s too early (to talk). We have to concentrate on the games.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal are fourth in the Premier League ahead of Newcastle’s visit to the Emirates Stadium.
United are three points short of Benitez’s 38-point safety target.
“Monday will be a tough game,” said Benitez. “If you see Arsenal, they’re doing really well.
“We have 35 (point) at the moment. You never know. We have to carry on, and the next game has to be like a final for us. We don’t worry about others.
“You need a bit of luck sometimes. We can compete against anyone, because we have confidence in ourselves, so I think we can do it.”
Newcastle’s statistics with seven games left to play are the same as last season, when they went on to finish 10th in the table.
“I was surprised,” said Benitez.
“I think it’s special. I can take that as a positive. If we do well, we can finish 10th, because we’re doing more or less the same.
“When we were safe (last season), we lost four games and won the last one against Chelsea.
“The stats are interesting, similar to last year, but the team is doing better things, have more in attack and the players know each other more.
“Maybe Almiron is giving us something in attack, helping Rondon and Ayoze."