Former NUFC loanee Valentino Lazaro has jumped to Joelinton’s defence, insisting that the £40m Brazilian is one of the “top four or five” players in our team – and hinting that “mental block” has held him back.
The Austrian also reveals how the ex-Hoffenheim star looked “so free” in training as he scored goals for fun, believing he can help take our team to “another level” once he builds up his confidence and overcomes his demons.
This is not the first time a player has publicly backed Joelinton and spoke about his apparent skill in training, with Jamal Lascelles wowed by what he saw in his first few sessions after signing and Jonjo Shelvey also getting behind the 24-year-old during lockdown.
Now, Lazaro – who recently made the switch to Borussia Monchengladbach following his unsuccessful loan spell on Tyneside – has given an insight into what big Joe is like on the training pitch – not to mention the fact he’s a player he’ll know well from their time together in Germany.
Here is what he told The Chronicle in full:
“As a striker, it’s always tough when you don’t score as many goals as you want to – especially with the price tag he has on him,”
“I had known Joe for a long time and I saw him every day in training.
“I’ve seen how he works and the way he is focused on his goals and the way he works to turn things around.
“The way he scores in training, he is so free.
“I think it’s a little bit of a mental block that he has to overcome right now.
“But I definitely know that he is one of the top four or five players in the team that can take them to another level.”
While a lot of the criticism of Joelinton has been fair, he has also been the victim of some uncalled for personal abuse online directed towards him from sections of our fanbase.
The reality is that he isn’t going anywhere for now and has the potential to still make it at Newcastle – so let’s get behind him, especially when Lazaro’s comments make it clear that he’s suffered mentally one way or another during his first year in England.
He scored a brilliant double in midweek, albeit against League Two Morecambe, but I also thought he was our best attacking player in an otherwise dismal display against Spurs, looking much more comfortable and confident in a deeper role down the left.
For players to come out and stick their own neck on the line to defend him shows that there must be a player in there somewhere – after all, they’ve seen more of him than us after training with him every day for months on end!
Forget his struggles and his £40m price tag, because the only way we are ever going to truly see what he can do is if we give him time and build him back up again.
Let’s stop using him as a scapegoat and hope he can build on promising back-to-back displays from the big man last week!