Rafa Benitez has told Gareth Southgate to take a close look at Newcastle United captain Jamaal Lascelles.
Lascelles has represented England at every level up to the Under-21 team, but he hasn’t yet been called up into the senior squad.
Benitez, however, believes Lascelles has the attributes needed to make the step up to international football.
“Always I say the same, he has plenty of room for improvement,” said United’s manager. “He has a great attitude. He’s working on his leadership as a captain, so I think it’s quite positive for the team. Still, he can improve things.
“But in terms of mentality, character, he’s someone who is going in the right direction, and that’s the main thing for us and the club, because you don’t have too many centre-backs around with this presence and this character.
“If he continues learning things, he can be an important player in England.”
If he (Lascelles) continues learning things, he can be an important player in England.Rafa Benitez
Asked if he felt that Lascelles, 23, had an outside chance of making England manager Southgate’s squad for this summer’s World Cup finals, Benitez added: “If he can improve a lot during these months – and I’m sure he will continue improving – you never know.
“He’s not now in the squad, but if they have a couple of problems, maybe he could be there.
“But, to have a chance to do that, he has to continue working hard and improving.
“He’s someone who has great potential, because he’s keen to learn in every training session.
“He has to improve, because he’s always open to hear and then trying to follow your advice if you’re telling him something.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle are just two points above the relegation zone. On today’s visit of Swansea, Benitez said: “We’re clever enough to understand the difference is very small in points.
“There are only a few points between six teams, which is not too much.
“In two games, everything can change.”