In the summer of 2018, Sean Longstaff was not expected by many Newcastle fans to have any sort of impact on last season. By this past summer, the 21-year-old was widely regarded as the future of Newcastle.
Sean reportedly had loan moves lined up last year before Rafa Benitez decided to hold him back. Like a similar decision with goalkeeper Freddie Woodman, one would assume that Rafa held Sean back due to the ultra-cautious nature of the former-Newcastle manager.
In an article he has penned for the Athletic, Rafa explains that it was not due to precaution that Sean was kept at Newcastle last season but that he saw something in the Geordie midfielder.
When writing about Rangers manager and former Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard, Rafa wrote this about young Sean:
“In fact, in the summer of last year, Stevie called me about Sean Longstaff.
“Rangers were interested and he asked whether they could sign him on loan, but I told him ‘no’ – he’d be staying at Newcastle United.
“Some people have said, ‘Oh, Rafa was lucky because of Longstaff’ but we’d been watching him and we were happy with him, we played him in the first-team, supported him and gave him confidence.
“Turning Rangers down is proof of what we thought of Sean.”
That decision to turn down Gerrard proved a very astute one by Rafa Benitez. It’s impact was massive last season as Longstaff cemented himself in the Newcastle side before his unfortunate knee injury. It also gave Newcastle fans a chance to get behind one of their own again.
A similar decision seems to have happened this year with Sean’s younger brother Matty under Steve Bruce. Bruce kept Matty with the first-team because he liked what he saw during pre-season. Bruce would have also seen the impact the elder Longstaff had last year and maybe thought to himself, can lightning strike twice?
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