Rafa Benitez assesses Miguel Almiron’s impact at Newcastle United
Miguel Almiron has wreaked havoc for Newcastle United – with AND without the ball.
That’s the view of Rafa Benitez, who signed the midfielder in January’s transfer window.
United have taken 11 points from a possible 18 since Almiron made his debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers last month.
The club, 13th in the Premier League with seven games left to play, is now just three points short of Benitez’s 38-point target.
Almiron, signed from Major League Soccer Club Atlanta United in a deal which could cost Newcastle up to £21million with add-ons.
Benitez, United’s manager, and head of recruitment Steve Nickson identified Almiron as a player who could help the club climb the table last year.
And the 24-year-old joined on transfer deadline day in January after weeks of talks.
Almiron has started the club’s last five games.
And the Paraguay international, set to face Peru in a friendly being played in the USA tonight, is creating chances for himself and his team-mates with his drive and determination.
“I think Miguel is doing well,” said Benitez.
“What we were expecting from him – his energy, his pace, his workrate and the quality in the final third ... he’s doing that already.”
Almiron was fouled 25 yards from goal by Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake at the Vitality Stadium last weekend.
Salomon Rondon, the club’s nine-goal leading Premier League scorer, netted from the resulting free-kick.
Almiron also created United’s second goal against Everton earlier this month with a 30-yard shot that goalkeeper Jordan Pickford could only parry to Ayoze Perez, who equalised with a neat finish.
Benitez also believes that Almiron is creating space for the likes of Rondon and Perez with his runs into the final third of the pitch.
“He can improve some things, but he has the energy and is giving the other players some space,” said Benitez.
“When you have someone running behind the defenders, it creates space.
“When you talk about Rondon, him and Ayoze ... sometimes, because he’s running, there are spaces for the others, and then we can link in a better way.”
Almiron will return to Tyneside after Tuesday’s friendly against Mexico, which is also being staged in the USA.
The club’s international players will have extra time to recover given that Newcastle’s next game, the club’s fixture against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on April 2, has been put back two days so it can be broadcast live on TV.
Meanwhile, Benitez was coy when asked about a possible future return to Valencia, where had a hugely-successful spell as manager early in his coaching career.
Benitez, out of contract at St James’s Park in the summer, plans to coach for another decade.
“I have a lot of respect for the Valencia manager (Marcelino),” said the 58-year-old, who won La Liga twice with Valencia.
“I have 10 years left in football, and you never know where I’ll end up.
“I haven’t returned to a club, because the circumstances have never been there to do so.”