When Rafa Benitez arrived at Newcastle he knew all about Ayoze Perez – his compatriot – and was keen to make him into a better player – who could even represent Spain one day
Fast forward three years and we saw Ayoze Perez put in a masterful performance on Saturday against Southampton where he looked top class and was the difference between the sides.
His hat trick was enough to get Newcastle a 3-1 win and get to 41 points and now we are mathematically safe for this season.
He scored three goals and ran his socks off.
To get the second goal from a brilliant left-wing cross from Rondon – Perez ran from inside his own half at full speed to support the Venezuelan before smashing the ball home to put Newcastle 2-0 up.
That piece of video will be used in football training videos on how to play support your own players in a game.
Just a fantastic goal to watch.
Ayoze Perez scores his second goal – after running half the length of the pitch
Perez is talking about possibly leaving Newcastle in the summer after five years at the club – but he shouldn’t forget why he is where he is now.
In two words – Rafa Benitez.
It’s also hard work and ambition from the player himself.
The Spanish manager is making Ayoze into a much better player and even hounding the Spanish striker to be more consistent.
Perez was asked after the game Saturday in the Chronicle if he wanted Rafa to stay at the club:
“Well, yeah. Obviously, we all want him to stay, it means a lot for this club.”
“Every fan wants him to stay as well. So there are a lot of things to think about, but we will see.”
“Now it is time to finish the season on a high if we can, three games to go, and hopefully we can pick up some more points.”
“I don’t know (if a Spain call-up makes it easier for me to stay), it depends on many things. But I am not even worried about that.”
“Obviously, it is a dream to be in that Spanish team but it is not something I am worried about now, thinking about.”
“I just want to finish as best as I can. Score a few more goals if I can, and then we will see what happens.”
“This is what you have to do – keep pushing. It is not in your hands. You have to do what I have done against Southampton.”
“You have to score goals, do as well as you can, and then it’s in somebody else’s hands, in this case, Luis Enrique’s (the current Spanish National coach).
“But I have been thinking about the team, getting the points needed and obviously now it is more than enough to stay in the Premier League.”
“Now we need to have the ambition to keep looking forward, to keep looking up and finish in the best position possible.”
“I will get the match ball signed by my team-mates on the next training day. And I am going to keep it in a special place at home.”
A really special performance by Ayoze Perez on Saturday and it will be remembered for a long time.
And no wonder the Saints fans after the game demanded their manager sign Perez in the summer.
It’s the best we’ve seen Perez play but if both he and Rafa stay at Newcastle long-term, we expect Perez to get even better – and score a lot more goals.
What do you think?