By Matt Farr

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez does not believe that striker Aleksandar Mitrovic will leave the club in January, but admits that agents trying to agitate a move for their clients is a problem in the game.

The Newcastle Chronicle claims that the Serbian goalscorer has been subject to interest from a number of clubs in Europe’s top leagues, but Benitez insists that Mitrovic has an important role to play at Newcastle.

The 22-year-old has made just 14 appearances in all competitions for the Magpies this season, scoring five goals, and has not started a league game for Newcastle since the defeat to Blackburn on November 26.

Mitrovic has largely played second fiddle to Newcastle’s lead goalscorer Dwight Gayle, who has 16 goals in 18 games, while Ayoze Perez and Yoan Gouffran are also preferred options for Benitez.

Napoli and Porto, who can both tempt Mitrovic with Champions League football, are rumoured to be interested in signing the 22-year-old, alongside Premier League duo Crystal Palace and West Ham.

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However, Benitez wants to keep his man and claims the speculation is purely the work of agents.

He told the Chronicle: “It happens. Players have agents, so if they are not playing somebody will try to move him on because he thinks it will be fine – and there is a commission in the middle. That is the problem with football now.”

With the hectic festive period well underway, Benitez is keen to rotate his options, while also maintaining the club’s Championship title challenge.

Mitrovic could have a more significant role to play when Newcastle take on Burton on Saturday, but the Newcastle boss can’t ignore Gayle’s superb form.

Football Insider verdict

If you look at it from Mitrovic’s perspective, it is a little frustrating. Some of Europe’s top clubs wanted to sign him before he joined Newcastle, who were then a Premier League side – but he instead chose to move to St. James’ Park. The form of Dwight Gayle has been impressive, but Mitrovic now finds himself on the bench in the second-tier; which is not where he wants to be at this point in his career. He is a promising talent still, and Benitez is a manager that can nurture him. Unfortunately, while Newcastle could be back in the Premier League next season, if someone like Napoli or Porto come knocking with an offer of Champions League football, a regular first-team role and more, it would not come as much of a surprise if Mitrovic agitated for a move.

In other Newcastle news, Benitez has compared upcoming opponents Burton Albion to former club Real Madrid.