Rafa Benitez has praised former Magpies Moussa Sissoko and Georginio Wijnaldum ahead of their big Champions League final match this Saturday. While both players were only around under Rafa’s initial 10-game spell, he seems to recognize and appreciate their abilities and what they bring to a side.
Rafa Benitez– he understands the game so well
Rafa had this to say about both Gini and Moussa after our relegation in 2016:
“They were good players for us but we were relegated and they had offers. Sometimes players do not get offers when they are relegated.
“They did and I am telling you Sissoko had three very good ones, including one very important one. That is good for them because you go down and have top sides interested in you.”
Rafa here shows how much he understands the modern footballer. Both Gini and Moussa were internationals and desired to play at the top level. While the fans had the right to criticize both players as the team that season was just dreadful, Rafa shows his pragmatism in defending the situations of both players:
“I understand the feelings of some fans who see them playing well or badly, that’s one thing, but both players were good professionals.
“If you play in a very good team, it’s easy. You will play better in this team. It’s very clear that with better players around, some players will be better, and you can’t question the level of Spurs or Liverpool.
“Consistency normally means a good team, it depends on one player sometimes, but these lads were good professionals and good workers. Sissoko had some problems at the beginning [at Spurs] but he’s a good pro and he’s continued to grow.”
The team that Rafa Benitez inherited from Steve McClaren was a mess. The determination and cohesion that Rafa instilled in last season’s Newcastle United squad were nowhere to be found under McClaren.
While Gini was only at Newcastle for a year, he was a very professional player and has since spoken highly of the club.
Sissoko’s issue stemmed from the interviews he would give in the French press, often while on an international break, about how much of a dream it would be to join such and such a team. That definitely did not endear him to our fans.
Rafa went on to praise Sissoko’s game that, to be fair, was much improved in the short time under Benitez:
“With Sissoko’s characteristics, you can see he is very powerful, has the pace and brings a lot. In this Tottenham team, with all these players around him, he is now a key player for them.
“For us, the best game he played for us was against Spurs [when we won 5-1 on the final day of the season]. That was in a 4-3-3 as one of the midfielders.
“He sometimes played as a winger for us but he is not a proper winger. He has pace but not the crossing ability. In the middle of 4-3-3, he was doing really well for us.
“Now he is playing in a 4-2-3-1 and doing well because he is learning and more mature. He is someone who is keen to learn and follow the instructions of his manager.”
It is good of Rafa to speak so highly of two very talented former players who have, to be perfectly honest, gone on to better things.
When asked about his future at Newcastle, though, he was not quite as talkative. Rafa refused to give any indication of where things were with his contract or the potential takeover. He was, however, as polite as you would expect him to be.