Despite being left out of his squad once again in Monday’s defeat at Burnley, Rafa Benitez has insisted that Aleksandar Mitrovic remains in his plans at Newcastle United.
After a disappointing season in the Championship on a personal level last year, the 23-year old striker has seen just 30 minutes of Premier League action so far this season.
His early season form was decent, seeing him bag against West Ham and Nottingham Forest, but his retrospective ban following an elbow on Manuel Lanzini saw him banned for three games – a moment of madness that clearly put him back in Benitez’s bad books.
Since returning from his ban, he’s came on as a substitute just once and has regularly missed out on Rafa’s matchday squads, leading to several supporters of the Serbian being left to wonder if his time at the club is coming to an end.
With this looming doubt in mind, here’s what Benitez said today when asked if the Serbian striker was still in his plans at Newcastle United:
“Yes (he is). You know the competition for the strikers has to be until the end.
“We now have Gayle, Joselu, Ayoze, an offensive player, and Mitrovic is fine. He played minutes in the last game and is another option.”
A pretty emphatic response from the gaffer, but you suspect he has no other choice but to say yes, for now at least.
For a while now, Rafa has accepted that he has no other choice but to do his best with what he’s got and I expect Benitez to ‘back’ Mitrovic as long as he is a Newcastle United player.
I must admit, his lack of discipline and alleged inability to follow Benitez’s specific tactical plan mean his days on Tyneside are probably numbered – however Rafa’s update does offer a glimmer of hope to all those who idolise the Serbian.