Rafa Benitez says the best is yet to come from Isaac Hayden.
The midfielder – who has asked to leave Newcastle United in the last two transfer windows for family reasons – has been a fixture in Benitez’s midfield since the turn of the year.
I was thinking he could do well, progress and be in the national team. He has the potential to play for England.Rafa Benitez
Benitez believes Hayden – who could again partner Ki Sung-yueng in midfield against Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium this afternoon – has the quality to go on and play for England at senior level.
“I think he can play even better,” said United’s manager.
“I was thinking he could do well, progress and be in the national team. He has the potential to play for England.
“He just needs to settle down and understand the game in another way. It’s a question of time.”
Benitez signed Hayden from Arsenal in the summer of 2016, when the relegated club was preparing for the Championship.
“With his background coming from Arsenal, and the quality he had technically, he needed to understand his position,” said Benitez.
“Sometimes, because he has this energy, he’s running to spaces he could avoid and maybe he could be in a better position.
“If he can improve that, he can be a much better player.”
Hayden wants to return to the south to be with his fiance and infant daughter, who was born prematurely last year.
“At the beginning, it was not easy,” said Benitez. “We can have conversations about anything. You can see that he’s enjoying (playing). It’s something that he will analyse at the end.”
Asked if there was a chance Hayden could stay at St James’s Park beyond this season, Benitez said: “Maybe. We have to wait. If he’s doing well and happy, you never know.
“The main thing for anyone in your job is to do well. If he’s playing and doing well, he’s enjoying.”
Hayden cut short the goal celebration for Newcastle’s second goal in last weekend’s 3-2 win over Everton last weekend.
And Benitez says the 23-year-old has the “right mentality”.
“I think this group of players is giving everything, and he’s someone, when he goes on the pitch, can make mistakes like anyone, but he’s giving everything,” said Benitez.
“He has the right mentality.”
Mohamed Diame, another of Benitez’s midfielders, is out of contract in the summer.
The 31-year-old will trigger a one-year contract extension if he makes another four Premier League starts this season.
Diame, however, favours a two-year deal, and the former Senegal international could yet leave the club.
Asked about the prospect of losing Hayden and Diame this summer, Benitez said: “We will see what happens. At the moment, I think we have enough bodies and quality to compete and do well.
“This game, (Sean) Longstaff is unavailable, but the others are.
“They have to compete and see what happens. Hayden, when he wanted to go, he was not happy.
“After, when he started playing games, playing well, so you can see his face every day – he’s enjoying himself.”