By North-east correspondent Harry Sykes
Rafael Benitez has claimed Jamaal Lascelles can play at the top level for at least the next decade.
The Newcastle manager is convinced the 22-year-old centre-back has a “great future” due to his professionalism and willingness to learn.
Lascelles was on the fringes of the team for much of his Premier League debut season under ex-manager Steve McClaren but he has established himself as a key player in the club’s survival bid in recent weeks.
The former Nottingham Forest defender has been crucial in helping shore up the Newcastle defence, forming a youthful but effective partnership alongside Chancel Mbemba during the team’s three-game unbeaten run against Liverpool, Manchester City and Swansea.
However, it has been Lascelles’ honest and impassioned interviews off the field – most particularly his no-holds-barred assessment of Newcastle’s display following the lamentable 3-1 defeat at Southampton earlier this month – which have really impressed supporters.
Benitez is convinced that the former England Under-21 international has an exciting future ahead of him.
Asked for his assessment of Lascelles since arriving on Tyneside, Benitez told the Newcastle Chronicle: “Really pleased. From watching from outside you can see a young centre-back who normally needs to improve and make mistakes, but the reaction when he makes mistakes when we are training, he is always listening to you and tries to understand.
“He is doing really well and he will be a really good centre-back for the future because he is doing really well now and he is learning.
“He is so young for a centre-back; 22 is young for a centre-back. He still has 10 years to play at the maximum level.
“I can see someone who is very professional, who is keen to learn, and for a centre-back he has a great future.”
Lascelles has only started eight of Newcastle’s 35 league matches this season, but he has jumped ahead of Steven Taylor and the injured Fabricio Coloccini in the pecking order.
In other Newcastle news, Moussa Sissoko has given his verdict on the stunning comeback at Liverpool last Saturday.