Rafa Benitez has spoken out about the future of Aleksandar Mitrovic after seeing the Serbian linked with a return to Anderlecht over the weekend, also explaining just why he chose not to bring on the striker in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Bournemouth.
At 0-0, we were crying out for him to replace Joselu up top in the second-half of Saturday’s disappointing defeat to Bournemouth, however Rafa opted to bring on Perez and Murphy in forward positions instead of the Serbian – with neither making any sort of impact.
The popular forward has not started a league game all season under Benitez and has recently missed out on several matchday squads and a number of NUFC fans have vented their frustrations after he was overlooked by Rafa once again over the weekend.
Here’s what Benitez has had to say when asked why he didn’t bring him on against Bournemouth:
“I thought Ayoze could give us some good movements.
“They are different kinds of player, different movements.”
He thought wrong unfortunately, with Perez offering so little when he came on. We lacked any presence up top when the frustrating Joselu made way and Mitrovic would have given us that. I’m not his biggest fan, but given our form in front of goal, he surely deserved his chance to show Benitez what he could do?
Perez came on to partner Gayle and nothing stuck. It didn’t work.
Reports in Belgium credited Anderlecht with an interest in bringing their former striker Mitrovic back to the club over the weekend, but Benitez responded to these rumours by suggesting it was too early to suggest whether a player will be able to leave in January or not:
“Every player who is not playing, the closer we get to January, there could be a rumour in the press,”
“But, at the moment, we’re working with 26 players in the squad to try to improve them. I cannot say ‘I want to do this or that’, because maybe we cannot.
“I had this conversation with an agent the other day, I said ‘you have to wait until December to see where we are because if I say yes, he can go, after that we could have an injury’. So why do I have to sell my player if I don’t have a replacement?
“Then you go for the replacement and it’s £30million, or he wants to wait until next year, or won’t come because we don’t play Champions League.
“So why do I have to agree to something now when have two months to go? Are we working on names? Yes, you have to be ready.”
In fairness, Rafa makes a fair point here, but his actions over the weekend and some of the above comments will hardly put any Mitrovic fans at ease.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Mitrovic is not in Benitez’s plans and you can’t help but feel he will be sold in January if an acceptable bid is lodged and replacement lined up.