Rafa Benitez addresses Kenedy’s future at Newcastle amid interest from Arsenal

Kenedy. Picture by Frank Reid
Kenedy. Picture by Frank Reid

Rafa Benitez says Kenedy can help Newcastle United go even higher up the Premier League next season – if the club can prise him away from Chelsea.

The winger joined the Magpies on loan in January.

And the arrivals of Kenedy and fellow loanee Martin Dubravka have coincided in an upturn in fortunes for Benitez’s side, who are 10th in the Premier League ahead of Sunday’s home game against Arsenal (1.30pm kick-off).

Kenedy was voted March’s Player of the Month by United fans after he netted two goals against Southampton.

There is not a clause in Kenedy’s loan to turn it into a permanent move, and the 22-year-old has been linked with Arsenal, Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich in recent days.

Asked if Newcastle will be at an advantage if Chelsea decide to sell him in the summer, Benitez said: “Yes, I think so, but it depends on the teams. He’s happy here. He’s enjoying his football.

When he receives the ball, he’s always comfortable. He’s never scared. He can make mistakes and give the ball away, but, normally, he’s doing well.

Rafa Benitez

“Here, he’s a key player for us. I think always for players it’s important to be in a good environment.”

Asked if he was worried that Kenedy’s performances had pushed up his value, Benitez said: “Yes, but if you say ‘do you want him to score goals and the value will go up?’, then yes, I want him to score goals.

“That’s it. Football is like this. If you have a good player, the value goes higher.”

On reported interest in Kenedy from around Europe, Benitez added: “I’m not sure if it’s that or the media talking and people throwing names.

“He has the level to play in a top team, yes. But he is in a top side already!”

Kenedy has suggested that he’s open to a permanent move to Newcastle.

Benitez said: “I will not put him in this position now. I’ve read some of his interviews. It’s just (time) to talk with him and not put him under pressure. If we get to 40 points, we can think about this.”

Former Chelsea manager Benitez did his homework on Kenedy before first trying to sign him last summer.

“I was following him,” said Benitez. “I saw him playing for Brazil Under-20.

“And I have good information from my friends at Chelsea. To see a player who was not playing too much at Watford (on loan), or Chelsea, to come here and play at the level he is playing, you can say it’s a surprise. It’s not a surprise, because we were expecting a good player.”

Chelsea weren’t prepared to write a clause into his loan allowed Newcastle to sign him on a permanent deal.

Benitez said: “We tried to do that, but we couldn’t.”

United are less “anxious” with Kenedy in the team, according to Benitez.

“When he receives the ball, he’s always comfortable – he’s never scared,” said the Spaniard.“He can make mistakes and give the ball away, but normally he’s doing well.

“He’s giving us something when we play under pressure that we didn’t have.

“Before, we were anxious and making mistakes.

“When he receives, he sees players around him. He can see the movements at set-pieces, corners.”

Asked if Kenedy was the sort of player needed to take United to another level, Benitez added: “Yes, if he has players around him of another level.”