Miguel Almiron has given Rafa Benitez a selection dilemma at Newcastle United – after showing exactly why he was brought to the club.
Almiron is set for his home debut against Huddersfield Town.
The midfielder, signed from Atlanta United last month in a club-record deal, hasn’t started a competitive game since the MLS Cup final in early December.
However, Benitez believes that Almiron – who will be welcomed to St James’s Park by a huge Wor Flags display – is ready to make his first start, having come off the bench against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux earlier this month and started the friendly against CSKA Moscow in Spain last weekend.
“To be fair, in the last game, the team was doing well,” said United’s manager, whose side is 16th in the Premier League.
“Now it’s a difficult decision, because everyone is training well and is available.
“If he’s playing, (the fans) will say ‘good, the new player is playing’, and if he scores a goal – ‘great decision’, and if not, they will say ‘oh, why is he not playing?’. Then you have something to talk about.
“Now is a time when we have to decide about things like leaving players out. You do not like to do it, but you have to do it.”
Benitez sees Almiron as a No 10, though he believes the Paraguay international can play in a number of positions.
“He can play in any positions behind the strikers,” said Benitez.
I think he’s exactly what we were expecting and what we were looking for. He’s very dynamic and he has pace. We were surprised, he has very good stamina.Rafa Benitez
“In a 5-4-1, he can play on the left side. One of the games (I saw), he can play right behind the striker, but he can also play on the right side of the pitch.”
The Almiron deal, with add-ons, could cost Newcastle up to £21million.
And the 24-year-old has shown on the training field why Benitez was so keen to bring him to the club.
“I think he’s exactly what we were expecting and what we were looking for,” said Benitez.
“He’s very dynamic and he has pace. We were surprised, he has very good stamina.
“He has the movements we were looking for, so I think it’s all fine.
“Now we have to see how he settled down in the Premier League with the pace and the physicality.
“Everything we saw when we were watching him, we have seen exactly the same in training sessions.”
Almiron’s arrival has lifted the club, according to Benitez.
“They (the players) like it when someone is very dynamic in every training session,” said Benitez. “When you have someone who is involved in everything, it’s quite positive, yes.”
Meanwhile, Benitez will keep faith with Martin Dubravka against Huddersfield.
The goalkeeper made mistakes against Wolves, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United this year.
Benitez, however, felt that Dubravka was fouled by Willy Boly at Molineux, where Newcastle conceded a 95th-minute equaliser.
Asked about Boly’s goal, Benitez said: “Yes, I told him he could have punched the ball, but we could also have protected him a little bit better. And it was a foul.”
Benitez believes that Dubravka is well-equipped to recover from those mistakes.
“If you have to pick one player who can live with the pressure and be professional, it would be Martin Dubravka,” said Benitez.
“But he’s a keeper, so he can be fine for 94 minutes and 10 seconds and then everything changes!
“But it’s the way that you see him training, see him when he’s talking to team-mates. You talk to him personally, and you see that he’s very, very mature and professional. And he’s very focused.
“So that is why I’m quite calm and happy. He can make mistakes like everyone but you can see the way that he behaves, the way that he carries himself (and) talks.”