By Laura O’Leary

Rafa Benitez insists that Ayoze Perez is doing a “great job” for Newcastle, despite criticising his performance against Crystal Palace in their 1-0 victory.

In an interview with the Chronicle,  Benitez was full of praise for the 24-year-old’s abilities when asked about the negative comments the attacker received on social media.

He said: “I can read the comments and some people say this or that.

“When I talk about a clever player, it doesn’t mean he has to control and put the ball in the top corner.

“He knows when he has to go, press and regain or when he has to attack and do runs behind the defenders, he stays between the lines.

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“He has some good movement and is creating space for the others and is doing the runs that will give others more time on the ball.”

Perez has been ever-present for Newcastle this season, scoring one goal and grabbing one assist in his nine Premier League appearances.

Perez was also a key member of Newcastle’s Championship winning squad last season, playing 36 times and scoring nine goals in the process.

He had several opportunities to leave Newcastle in the summer, but opted to stay because of Rafa Benitez.

The creative Spaniard has been at Newcastle since 2014 when Alan Pardew signed him on long term contract to boost Newcastle’s Under-21 department.

The forward, who Benitez likes to utilise in the number 10 role just behind the striker, still has four years left on his Newcastle contract, which runs until June 2021.

While Benitez listed several of Perez’s qualities and explained why he works in the Newcastle team, he did acknowledge that the Spaniard could still improve.

He said: “He didn’t play well the other day. He knows. We know.

“He had two or three situations where he could do better, and he was wrong.

“Still he’s doing a great job, and the understanding between him and Joselu and the midfielders and the rest of the team is quite good.”

Newcastle are set to play Burnley tonight at Turf Moor, with Perez expected to start.

In other Newcastle United news, Jonjo Shelvey revealed who gave him the hairdryer treatment after his red card against Tottenham.

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