Rafa Benitez believes Ayoze Perez is the perfect No 10 for Newcastle United.
A goal from Perez gave the club a hugely-important 1-0 win over Huddersfield Town at St James’s Park on Saturday.
Perez, used as a second striker by Benitez, has his critics, but United’s manager isn’t one of them.
“We’ve been talking that No 10 position for two seasons now,” said Benitez. “Some people are saying he’s too lightweight, and he gives the ball away, but he plays in a position where he often has a lot of players around him and he has to do difficult things.
“He has the movement and the understanding of the game and when we need something, for a player who plays between the lines of defence and midfield, he understands these things.
“We do not have more players like that.
“You can maybe play a game with two strikers, but you can lose control of the (opposition) holding midfielders and therefore the team.
“If you have a player who can play between the lines, they can be a threat in attack, but they can also help defensively.
“A player who can link with the striker and be a threat in attack, they’re difficult to find. Normally a proper No 10 would be a player with quality when they dribble, but they probably wouldn’t help out much in defence.
“Finding the balance between quality going forward and helping the team is difficult, but he’s the player who can do that for us.”
Some people are saying he’s too lightweight, and he gives the ball away, but he plays in a position where he often has a lot of players around him and he has to do difficult things.Rafa Benitez
Asked if Perez, signed as an unknown from Tenerife in the summer of 2014, is more a manager’s player than a crowd favourite, Benitez added: “Could be. The fans expect the No 10 to be able to dribble and score a lot of goals.
“He sometimes gives the ball away, but he always helps out in defence. When you don’t have a player in that position who can do those things you expect, you need one who can help the team out in defence.
“He’s clever and he is a hard worker.”