Rafa Benitez offers revealing insight into his recruitment at Newcastle

Rafa Benitez looked at the character of his signings
Rafa Benitez looked at the character of his signings

Rafa Benitez has explained how he set about rebuilding Newcastle United’s squad in the wake of relegation.

The Championship leaders take on Aston Villa at St James’s Park on Monday night.

Newcastle turned in a transfer profit last summer thanks to the high-profile departures of Moussa Sissoko and Georginio Wijnaldum.

Benitez added players with Championship experience, like Matt Ritchie and Grant Hanley, to his squad.

Villa, relegated with United, spent tens of millions of pounds in the transfer market, but that investment is yet to pay dividends on the pitch.

The Midlands club, managed by Steve Bruce, are 16th in the table after losing five of their last six league games.

“It is not fair for me to talk about the other clubs,” said United manager Benitez.

“We know what we have done. We know they are a big club and they have spent some money, but I do not know how they did it or the processes they followed.

“It is not for me to talk about them.

“They are still a big club with good players, and with a manager with experience. It will be a tough game.”

Benitez had a “clear” idea of what needed to be done last summer.

“I think it is very clear,” said Benitez. “If you are relegated, you have to change half of the squad because they were not good enough.

“You have to bring new people in, and they have to settle down and you have to develop an understanding between the players.

“Teams that have been in the Championship for a number of years in a row, in the top six or close to the top six, if they sign only a couple of players, that is all they need to be stronger.

“It is simple to understand why.”

Benitez and his staff researched the “character” and “mentality” of the players they wanted to recruit.

“The first thing that we did well was to know about what we had here in terms of the players and staff,” he said.

“After that, we tried to keep the people we wanted to keep, and receive advice from them because they knew the city, the club and what was going on.

“We tried to sign players that we thought could be good for the Championship, and then afterwards in the Premier League.

“But we made sure that we were bringing in players with the right character.

“It is not just about quality sometimes. You also have to have the right characters.

“Sometimes, you might sign a player and they are not amazing, but they can create the right atmosphere in the dressing room.

“We have good players, and good professionals. We have a very good group.

“There are examples of good players who have not been right for the Championship.

“When we talking about which players we had to keep and which players we had to sell, we talked a lot about mentality.

“We knew the players where the mentality was right for them to stay and keep pushing, and try to go up from the Championship.

“I think we were right with the majority of them.

“Obviously, we have made mistakes like everyone, but the key is that if you have less mistakes than the others.

“I think we have assembled a good group of players, and the players that were already here are fine.

“They are pushing hard, and the understanding between the new players and the rest has been really good.”

Meanwhile, Yasin Ben El-Mhanni scored in Newcastle’s 2-1 Premier League 2 defeat to Blackburn Rovers yesterday.