Rafa Benitez responds to Liverpool and Chelsea’s interest in Newcastle’s Jamaal Lascelles

Newcastle United's Jamaal Lascelles
Newcastle United's Jamaal Lascelles

Rafa Benitez says Jamaal Lascelles is settled at Newcastle United – and NOT looking to leave.

Chelsea and Liverpool have been linked with the club’s captain this season.

But Benitez, under no pressure to sell in next month’s transfer window, is relaxed about his situation after discussions with Lascelles and those around him.

“I saw the links, but I have been talking with Jamaal and with more people around him,” said Benitez, whose side take on Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium tonight.

“He’s happy, he’s OK.

“We think that he’s a good player for us, so I don’t see any big change in January around him, or anyone really.”

I have been talking with Jamaal and with more people around him. He’s happy.

Rafa Benitez

Liverpool watched Lascelles, handed the captain’s armband by Benitez in the summer, lead his team to a 4-0 victory over Birmingham City on Saturday.

The result took United back to the top of the Championship.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, understood to be drawing up a list of defensive targets ahead of the January window, will have Lascelles, signed from Nottingham Forest two years ago, watched again over the coming weeks.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte was linked with an £18million move for Lascelles in October.

Benitez, however, doesn’t envisage anyone leaving St James’s Park in the January window apart from midfielder Cheick Tiote, who is in the final year of his contract.

With Newcastle challenging for promotion, Benitez believes his squad is committed to the challenge on Tyneside.

United could even strengthen next month if the right player is available at the right price.

“(With) the players that are playing a lot of games, with the team at the top and the possibilities of the future, I don’t see anyone who would like to go,” said Benitez.

“I could see maybe someone coming, but still our position is the same.

“Still we are happy with the squad at the monent.

“The players are fine and they are enjoying their football, so I don’t see a big problem now.”

United moved a point clear of second-placed Brighton and Hove Albion – who took on Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park last night – after beating Birmingham.

Benitez – whose side face Burton Albion on Saturday before having a festive break – is not concerned with being Christmas No 1 in the Championship.

“I want to be top in May,” said Benitez.

“I am not really thinking about now.

“We don’t win any titles now. If we are, then it is a sign we are doing something right.

Meanwhile, Benitez believes that midfielder Jonjo Shelvey is “focused” ahead of next week’s Football Association hearing.

Shelvey has denied a FA charge of using racially-aggravated language towards a Wolverhampton Wanderers player in September and could be banned for five or more games if found guilty.

Benitez said: “For him, it’s important to concentrate on the pitch.

“He’s a good player. If he can stay focused on football, he will do well and be another key player for us.

“I think he knows he has our confidence. He’s trying to play his best football. He’s someone that’s keen to pass the ball and be involved in the game. He has the freedom to do it. With Hayden around, it has good balance.

“He knows what he has to do.”