Rafa Benitez has challenged his Newcastle United team to progress on the field in the EFL Cup – as the club’s work continues off the pitch.
Benitez’s side take on Cheltenham Town at St James’s Park tonight in a second-round tie.
We want what’s best for the player and the club.
Forward Siem de Jong yesterday joined PSV Eindhoven on a year-long loan.
And a number of players could follow de Jong out of the club, while Benitez is also hopeful of a breakthrough in his long-running search for a striker.
Goalkeeper Tim Krul, in the final year of his deal, could sign a contract extension and join Ajax on a season-long loan.
Asked about Krul, United manager Benitez said: “We want to find the best solution.
“We want what’s best for the player and the club.”
Midfielder Henri Saivet, surplus to requirements at Newcastle seven months after arriving on Tyneside, is wanted on loan by Saint-Etienne.
Benitez, meanwhile, has claimed only a “fantastic” offer would persuade the club to sell defender Daryl Janmaat, who is interesting West Ham United and Watford.
The club yesterday lost out on Everton defender Brendan Galloway, who has joined West Bromwich Albion on a season-long loan.
Newcastle’s transfer priority is a striker, and the club is keen on Utrecht’s Sebastien Haller, who is understood to be open to a move to St James’s Park.
And Wolfsburg’s Bas Dost is another target.
Benitez’s immediate focus is the Cheltenham game, which follows Saturday’s 1-0 Championship win over Bristol City.
The result at Ashton Gate lifted United up to seventh in the league. The club’s over-riding priority is promotion, but Benitez feels his team can still have a run in the rebranded EFL Cup.
“If you ask any manager, at any level, including the top sides and the teams at the bottom, maybe they will say to you that the priority is the league,” said Benitez, who will make a number of changes to his team.
“If you think about managers at the top of the table, what do they want to do?
“To go up if it is in the Championship, or qualify for the Champions League or win the title if its the Premier League.
“So all of them will say ‘yes I want to do well in the cup’. But the priority is the league.
“The teams at the bottom of the table, what do they want? To stay up, so they don’t want to think about the cup.
“It doesn’t mean for me that you forget about the cup. I would never say ‘the priority for me is the league and I don’t care about the cup’.
“No, it’s not true. My priority is the next game. If I can manage to keep a squad with enough confidence to play, then we can do well.
“A player needs to realise he will have an opportunity to show their level in a cup game.”