Rafa Benitez has praised Florian Lejeune’s adaptation to the Premier League after his summer move from Spain, but has admitted that fans will be unaware just how unlucky he has been with injuries this season.
The gaffer has revealed how he was left crocked after clashing with Ayoze Perez in training just days after he had fully recovered from Harry Kane’s infamous challenge on the opening day of the season.
The £8.7m summer arrival looked outstanding in pre-season and confidently kept out Harry Kane for most of his Premier League debut – all until the England striker’s awkward challenge forced him off with an ankle injury.
He was sidelined with ligament damage for several weeks, however Rafa has revealed how he suffered another set-back just as he was close to returning, with a training collision with Ayoze Perez injuring him yet again.
Here’s what Rafa’s had to say about the Frenchman, explaining how he’s done incredibly well in his first season in England given how unlucky he’s been at times:
“I think he is doing really well and, at the same time, I feel he has been really unlucky, which is not something I think a lot of people realise,”
“I was talking with Antonio [Gomez Perez, Newcastle’s first-team coach] about this and about when Florian was at Girona and Eibar. He had no injuries in Spain, he was always playing every game.
“Then, for us, in the first game against Tottenham, one bad tackle, a big problem, and since then he had a couple of months before kicking a ball during a tackle with Ayoze [Perez], and there’s another injury.
“So he has been really unlucky for someone who is coming here; a new centre-back, someone who needs to know what it means to be involved in the physicality of the Premier League.”
Rafa then went on to explain just what he brings to his Newcastle side, believing he is a player who ‘gives us something different from defence’.
The Chronicle claim that the former Eibar defender was Rafa’s top centre-back target over the summer, and it’s easy to see why based on Benitez’s comments here:
“He is a player who has quality on the ball and also he has to change the way he was playing, because at Eibar he was pushing up in defence and for us he has to know when to push up or drop off,”
“The first year in the Premier League is quite difficult for everyone, but especially for a centre-back. And particularly for a centre-back who is good on the ball.
“Florian is good on the ball and everybody is also expecting him to be strong and good in the air, but the main thing is he has this quality on the ball.
“When Florian plays, he gives us something different from defence – and the understanding between him and Jamaal is positive.”
I must say, I was concerned for a short period when watching how he struggled in Lascelles absence at the back end of last year, however he’s looked a class-act whenever he’s played alongside the skipper in recent weeks.
Hopefully he can keep this level of performance up and go from strength to strength following a generally successful first season in English football for the Frenchman.
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