By support

6th Jan, 2017 | 2:03pm

Rafa Benitez makes emphatic decision over future of 22-year-old Newcastle ace

By Will Butcher

Rafa Benitez has told interested clubs that Newcastle hotshot Aleksander Mitrovic will not be going anywhere in January.

The Daily Mail claimed last month that both Swansea and Crystal Palace were interested in signing the £15million-rated striker, as he continues to warm the bench at St. James’ Park.

Speaking ahead of the Toon’s FA Cup third-round clash against Birmingham on Saturday, Benitez declared that his 22-year-old forward is not to be sold this month.

“We are not interested in selling Mitrovic,” Benitez revealed, as quoted by Evening Chronicle reporter Lee Ryder’s personal Twitter account.

With the Championship’s top scorer Dwight Gayle continuing to star in Rafa Benitez’s side, Mitrovic has failed to gain regular playing time on Tyneside this season.

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The former Anderlecht ace has made just four Championship starts all season, scoring three goals while adding two more strikes in two EFL Cup appearances.

Mitrovic’s future in the north East was plunged even further into doubt on Monday, after he was left out of Benitez’s entire 18-man matchday squad to face Owen Coyle’s Blackburn.

Since moving to the Toon back in the summer of 2015, Mitrovic has scored 14 goals in 52 league and cup appearances, 23 of those being from the bench.

Football Insider verdict:

Mitrovic must be kept at St. James’ Park as he remains a top-quality player at Championship level and could prove crucial in the Toon’s run towards promotion. However, Newcastle’s number 45 must be given more of a run in Benitez’s side to prevent him from becoming disillusioned on the bench as Gayle continues to top the goalscoring charts. Starting with Saturday’s trip to Birmingham, Mitrovic must be given a more regular run in the side and that will only benefit the Toon. With his best years ahead of him, Mitrovic is only going to get better.

In other Newcastle transfer news, this League One manager has made a decision in his pursuit of Sammy Ameobi.