Aleksandar Mitrovic has opened up about his struggles under Rafa Benitez at Newcastle United – admitting that both he and the manager had accepted that he ‘couldn’t play’ in his counter attacking side.
Interestingly, Mitro describes Rafa as a ‘great person’ and one of the best defensive coaches – suggesting there was no personal problem between the two, but instead a case of them being a bad fit for what both wanted to achieve.
Here’s what Mitrovic has had to say today, suggesting all the running and defensive work made it difficult for a player of his size – with both himself and Benitez accepting that he couldn’t play in our system:
“Benitez plays defence and counter-attack.
“I tried to give my best but it wasn’t me.
“I was just running and getting in the team shape. He told me what he wanted and I tried but I am 90 kilos and if I run so much defensively I have no power left when I am in the box. He knew I couldn’t play in that style and I felt it too.”
Mitrovic then praised Rafa’s work defensively, calling him ‘one of the best’, admitting that he shook his hand when he left – seeing him as a ‘great person’ despite talk that they didn’t see eye to eye:
“Defensively he was one of the best and you can see that when they play, but personally I like to be close to the opponents’ box. I need crosses and service.”
“Benitez is a great person and in the end I shook his hand.”
Hopefully this can put an end to the debate, with his comments today explaining just why the two struggled to work together.
Benitez clearly felt Mitrovic wasn’t a good fit, and even the player himself admits he wasn’t here.
Should Rafa have altered his system to fit in the Serbian who’s now scoring goals for fun with Fulham? There’s an argument that suggests it may have been worth a crack, but our 10th place finish last season suggests to me he got it right.