Rafa Benitez has refused to completely shoot down the possibility of out-of-favour striker Aleksandar Mitrovic playing for Newcastle in the future, after he joined Fulham on loan for the remainder of the season.
Mitrovic was a largely absent figure at St James' Park in the first half of the campaign having fallen down the pecking order under Benitez, but with a World Cup spot on the line the Serbia international was desperate to play regular football and sealed a move to the Championship side to do so.
Despite making just seven appearances for the Magpies this season, which amounted to just 89 minutes of football, Benitez admitted there is a way back for the 23-year-old.
“My relationship with him is fine. He’s a nice lad. You pick your team. I don’t need to worry about my ego. I have won trophies around the world and I don’t need to be worried about my ego," he told the Shields Gazette.
“My priority to win games. You pick your team thinking ‘this is the best team for me’. It was clear that he wanted, and needed, to play games. Now he has an opportunity.
✍️ IT'S OFFICIAL
Aleksandar Mitrović has joined #FFC on loan from @NUFC
“Hopefully, he’ll score 25 goals. We’ll be happy with that. He’ll have more value. He will come here and say ‘I’m a new player, you have to trust me because I’ve scored 25 goals’. Fine, no problem.”
Despite yet another transfer window without a significant signing, after securing three loan moves, Benitez revealed Newcastle have already turned their attention to the summer.
Benitez added: “On Thursday, I was talking with Steve Nickson and the scouting team who have been working so hard for all these months. I said ‘listen, take some holidays’. Some of them are already just analysing for the summer.
“We are doing a review now of the players that we were following, how they were doing and all these things. They’re doing that already.”