Rafa Benitez has told Salomon Rondon to carry on scoring as the striker bids to earn a permanent move to Newcastle United.
Rondon, signed on a season-long loan from West Bromwich Albion, is the club’s leading goalscoring with six Premier League goals.
He just needs to focus on trying to do well and score goals. In general, he’s doing well. He could score more goals, but he could play worse.Rafa Benitez
And the striker will lead the line for Newcastle against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux tonight.
Rondon spoke of his keenness to stay at St James’s Park beyond the end of his loan after joining the club last summer.
United’s hierarchy had vetoed a cash move for Rondon before, eventually, securing him on loan with Dwight Gayle going the other way.
Rondon’s age – he turns 30 this year – was a factor in the decision not to activate his £16.5million release clause at The Hawthorns.
Benitez – whose own future at Newcastle is uncertain – would still like to see the Venezuela international stay on Tyneside.
“Everybody can see he’s doing well,” said United’s manager.
“It’s too early to talk about that (Rondon’s future).
“He just needs to focus on trying to do well and score goals.
“In general, he’s doing well. He could score more goals, but he could play worse.
“He’s playing well, he’s scoring goals, he’s giving others the opportunity to go forward – he’s doing a lot of good things.
“In terms of his attitude on the pitch, he’s working really hard.
“For a striker who’s on his own, that’s not easy.
“He’s nice with his team-mates, he’s always talking.”
Asked if it would be a risk to sign him given his age and likely price tag in the summer, Benitez said: “Always, it’s a problem or a risk to sign anyone in the Premier League, because it’s very demanding.
“But when they have been here in the Premier League, and after they come here and they perform, it’s an easy decision.”
Benitez believes Rondon – who is contracted at West Brom for another year and a half – can be even better in his 30s.
“It depends on the characteristic of the striker,” said Benitez.
“He understands his movements, what he has to do. So I think he can do better.”
Benitez, however, acknowledged that Rondon’s longer-term future may lie elsewhere given the reluctance of United, under Mike Ashley’s ownership, to sign players in their late 20s and 30s.
Asked about the prospects of him signing a 30-year-old player at Newcastle, Benitez added: “We will see.
“The main thing that he has to do is score goals and keep playing well.
“That’s the best thing he can do if he wants to have a big name in the (transfer) market.”