COMMENT By Matt Farr

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez is expected to refine his squad in January ahead of their bid to lift the Championship title.

A lot has been said over who Newcastle might be looking to bring in, and who might be on the way out of St. James’ Park, but one name Benitez must be looking to sign is Christian Atsu.

The 24-year-old winger is currently on loan at Newcastle from Chelsea, and has been an impressive signing so far this season.

The rising star has made 14 appearances in all competitions, scoring twice, including his side’s second goal in the recent victory over Wigan.

Unfortunately, Benitez will be without his services at the start of the new year, as he joins up with the Ghana national team for the Africa Cup of Nations.

That should not though, stop Benitez from working at pushing through a permanent deal for the Chelsea winger.

Atsu offers great pace, and his dribbling ability is one of the main reasons behind his success so far in the Championship.

Traditionally a left-sided winger, he could also provide an option on the right, where he likes to cut inside and either shoot at goal or create an opportunity for a team-mate.

According to the Newcastle Chronicle, Atsu is happy at Newcastle, but has remained coy over any potential transfer to the club on a permanent basis. However, he did say that the ball was in Newcastle’s court.

Whether it be in January or July, Antonio Conte faces a decision to make regarding Atsu’s long-term future at Chelsea. This is Atsu’s fifth loan spell in three years, and he has yet to make a competitive appearance for Chelsea.

Will Conte view Atsu as someone who can have an impact on his first-team squad in the future? The Blues are top of the Premier League, while Newcastle are top of the Championship so there’s a bit of a difference in class.

That’s not to say that Atsu can’t make the transition. He is clearly a youngster with immense quality, and at 24-years-old, it may now be time for him to cement a place in a team that sees him as a regular first-team player – like Newcastle.

In other Newcastle transfer news, the club are set to sanction a deal to let this striker leave the club in January.