Rafa Benitez reveals Miguel Almiron’s reaction to furore over his dismissal ahead of Newcastle’s visit to Arsenal
Almiron was sent off for a reckless lunge at Jose Juan Vazquez during Paraguay’s defeat to Mexico last week.
The midfielder, set to face Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium tonight, spoke to Benitez about the incident after returning to Tyneside.
“I was talking with him,” said Benitez, who signed Almiron in January from Major League Soccer club Atlanta United.
“There was some delay with the plane. When I saw him in the gym, he said he was fine.
“I asked him again during the training session, – asked him if he was OK – and he said ‘yes’.
“I don’t think he’s the sort of player who would make a bad tackle on purpose.
“It was the situation. They were losing, and he has this energy.
“But, mentally, he’s ready, and he’s training well.
“He was training well, as usual.
“Normally, they play a game before training, and he was training with the others and enjoying himself. I think he was fine.”
Almiron has helped revitalise Newcastle since joining in a deal which could cost the club £21million with add-ons.
However, the 25-year-old is still looking for his first goal.
Asked if Almiron felt that he needed a goal, Benitez said: “No, not really.
“Perhaps if I asked the specific question, he would say ‘yes’, but he’s happy, and you can see that in the matches.
“He’s doing OK. I don’t see any anxiety just because he’s not scoring. He’s fine.”
Almiron – who has taken Christian Atsu’s place in the team – has developed a good understanding with Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez since his arrival.
“You talk about Rondon, Perez and Almiron, and they play well together,” said Benitez, Newcastle’s manager.
“But I want to be fair with Atsu, because he was doing well.
“Had he not been playing well, that’s different.
“Maybe he (Almiron) has more pace going forward, causing more problems for defenders, and that’s beneficial for Rondon and Ayoze.”
Almiron has been the talk of Tyneside since his move from the MLS, and Benitez believes that he can handle the attention.
“He’s fine,” said Benitez. “He’s someone that likes to stay at home, come here, train.
“He’s a nice lad. I’m not too worried about what’s going on around him.
“He’s concentrating on what he’s doing here.”
Meanwhile, Benitez was linked with the Arsenal job before the club appointed Unai Emery as Arsene Wenger’s successor.
Emery had previously been manager at Paris Saint-Germain.
Arsenal – who missed out on Champions League football this season after finishing sixth in Wenger’s last campaign – are fifth in the Premier League table a point behind fourth-placed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United.
“I know Unai quite well, and I think he’s doing quite well,” said Benitez.
“I think he’s trying to change things a little bit, but still keeping the style that they were playing before.
“I think, in the beginning he was fine, then they had a few problems, but I think they’re doing well, especially at home.
“They have good players, they have a good manager, and so I think they have the confidence that they are progressing. He’s doing well.
“Obviously, Arsene Wenger is a great manager, he did really well, but I think Unai can do well.”
Asked if he had ever been tempted by the Arsenal job, Benitez said: “At the moment, I’m here, so I cannot change what is going on.
“My job now is to concentrate winning against them. That’s it.”
Wenger had been Arsenal manager for 22 years.
“Unai’s doing a good job,” said 58-year-old Benitez, who is out of contract at United in the summer.
“Obviously, it depends on the targets that they have, but he’s doing OK.
“I think every year he will be better because he will talk better English, he will know the league much better, he will know his own players, so I think he’s doing well.”
Emery will have Aaron Ramsey and Nacho Monreal available for Newcastle’s visit to the Emirates Stadium.