By Russell Edge
Newcastle United boss Rafael Benitez has admitted he does not know how much potential some of his first team stars possess.
The Spanish manager has built a youthful squad at St James’ Park, with the average age of the Magpies’ starting XI younger than any other top flight side this season.
Many of the club’s first team stars have joined the club under Benitez’s stewardship, as he has also offloaded several of the club’s longest serving stars.
However, he has surprisingly admitted that he does not know how good the likes of Isaac Hayden, who was signed from Arsenal as a 21-year-old in the summer of 2016, or former Chelsea winger Christian Atsu, will become in the future.
He says that their progress from the Championship to the Premier League has been impressive, but insists that their development will all come down to how willing they are to dedicate themselves to learning.
Benitez told the Chronicle: “Some players you can see that, maybe, they can improve a lot, and others who you think are close to their maximum level.
“When we signed Hayden, he is a young player so he can improve. How much? We don’t yet know.
“It depends on him too – on how much he wants to learn, if he listens to you and pays attention to details in the training sessions.
“Some people were saying at the beginning: ‘Oh Atsu, why will we keep Atsu?’
“Can he be at the level that we need for him to do ‘this’ or ‘that’? I don’t know, but he’s someone that you know has improved and will keep improving because he’s keen to learn.”
Hayden has made 46 appearances for Benitez so far in his Newcastle career, having established himself as an important member of the first team last season.
He continued to keep his place in the starting XI for the first six league games of the season, eventually having to make an appearance from the substitute’s bench after Benitez started Jonjo Shelvey ahead of him.
Atsu meanwhile has 42 Newcastle appearances under his belt since joining from Chelsea on an initial loan deal, with six starts out of his seven appearances this season.
In other Newcastle United transfer news, the Magpies are said to still be in the hunt for this reported former target.