Some clubs were after Newcastle’s Jamaal Lascelles in the summer but Rafa Benitez is not daft, and he said his captain was not available.
Every inquiry made by other clubs was quickly rebuffed.
Jamaal was signed with goalkeeper Karl Darlow from Nottingham Forest in the summer of 2014, but both were allowed to play the next season on loan at Forest.
The two of them together cost £7M – so it was an excellent double buy for Newcastle.
Both players love it at the club, and both were key to our promotion from the Championship.
Rafa Benitez and Jamaal Lascelles – two vital men at Newcastle
Karl is now number two behind our excellent new signing Martin Dubravka, but Karl has improved over the last three years at Newcastle.
In fact, Rafa has said since Dubravka came in last January Karl has improved as a goalkeeper.
Rafa joined us in March of 2016, and he almost immediately picked out Jamaal Lascelles as an excellent young player and started to play him in the first team.
Then in that summer when the lad was only 22 and after we had been relegated – Rafa named him captain.
A terrific appointment by Rafa in retrospect and Jamaal was our best player last season.
When the lad speaks – just like when Rafa speaks – he knows exactly what the fans want, and he shows he’s completely committed to the club.
That’s just one reason why fans love Jamaal.
This is what pundit Danny Higginbottom has said about the Newcastle captain today on Sky Sports:
“He leads by example, he’s a strong physical player.”
“When I was with him at Nottingham Forest, the one thing that stood about him is that he wanted to learn.”
“He’s grown into that (leadership) role at Newcastle and the fans absolutely love him.”
We fully expect Jamaal Lascelles to become a better player at Newcastle because he is so keen to learn from Rafa Benitez.
The two of them have a great relationship, and both happen to be perfectionists.
The only thing we need now is for owner Mike Ashley to somehow sign Rafa Benitez to a long-term contract and agree to help Rafa build a top team on Tyneside.
That’s still possible.
If Ashley would only give Rafa decent money to spend in each transfer window and let him spend the transfer money as he sees fit – that could even work on Tyneside.
As long as Mike Ashley keeps in the background, as he’s been doing for over a year now.