Rafa Benitez has revealed what’s been holding Kenedy back at Newcastle United.
The winger, re-signed on loan from Chelsea in the summer, is yet to get into his stride.
And Benitez is hoping he can rediscover the form that helped the club secure a 10th-placed finish last season.
Kenedy revealed earlier this month that his “dream” is to impress again at Newcastle – and to win a trophy with Chelsea next term.
To do that, the 22-year-old must overcome a niggling groin problem and work through some off-the-field “difficulties”.
“I was talking with him at the beginning of the season, and talking with his people and the people around him, including his agent,” said United manager Benitez.
Obviously, he would like to go to Chelsea and win the league, for example. Fine, but it’s a win-win situation for us. He has to do really well here if he wants to go there and play and have a chance.Rafa Benitez
“It’s a crucial season for him. Obviously, he would like to go to Chelsea and win the league, for example.
“Fine, but it’s a win-win situation for us. He has to do really well here if he wants to go there and play and have a chance. They’re a top side, and it’s very demanding. He knows that.
“He will need some time. His partner was having a baby, and it was a difficult time in the summer. Hopefully, little by little, it will settle down and he can be the player that we were expecting.”
Benitez is looking for “consistency”.
“He has to be consistent,” said Benitez. “He was doing really well for us for six months. Now he has to prove he’s someone who can play at this level for a while. I think he can do it, but he has had a difficult summer with the baby. She was in Brazil, in London, so it was difficult, but little by little it will settle down.”
Kenedy is doing extra work before every training session with the club’s fitness coach and physios.
“I was talking to him in English, trying to encourage him to carry on and keep working hard,” said Benitez “At the moment, he has some problems – some pain in the groin – so we’re working on that.
“He has to come early and go with the fitness coach and physio. He’s not fully fit, so we have to do little bits with him.”
Benitez also wants Kenedy to be focused mentally on what he has to do.
“If he has physical little problems, it’s something he has to sort out,” said Benitez.
“But, mentally, he has to be focused and to realise he’s a player who can make a difference for us.”
There is no option to buy in Kenedy’s season-long loan.
While Benitez is keen to see Kenedy stay at Newcastle beyond this season, he says it’s too early to talk about the Brazilian’s future.
“My experience with players when it’s so early in the season (is to) leave them just playing well and afterwards you have plenty of time to talk about the future,” said Benitez. “We can be saying ‘if he is doing well, maybe he will go back to Chelsea’. But Chelsea may sign three players who can play in his position as well. Then he will see he has no chance of playing there and stays here.
“Still, I think it’s too early to talk about that, but in his head, the main thing is to just keep playing well.”
“At the moment, it’s a loan, but we have a very good relationship with Chelsea, with him and his agent, so we are in a good position.”