New long-term contracts for Newcastle players has been one of the major topics of conversation in recent days.

The media widely reporting that Jamaal Lascelles and a number of other players are in line to be offered new extended and improved deals, with the hope/expectation that the players involved will be keen to sign up.

Rafa Benitez himself, has indicated that a new deal for the Newcastle captain is in the offing and could shortly be concluded.

So who would you like to see tied up long-term at St James Park, apart from Rafa Benitez obviously.

Well I think there are seven players who stand out, three or four who I see as essential to the first team at the minute, with the others hopefully having what it takes to improve and show they are of the same quality in the coming seasons.

It isn’t that I think these seven players are Newcastle’s only decent ones but if I’m honest, if any of the rest of the squad left, I would be quite comfortable with it if higher ability players appeared to be arriving.

These are my top seven, in order of importance:

Mikel Merino

Matt Ritchie

Ciaran Clark

Freddie Woodman

DeAndre Yedlin

Jonjo Shelvey

Isaac Hayden

Mikel Merino, on the little we have seen of him so far, is the one who could be capable of playing at the very highest level. So the quicker the better we can get his loan converted into a permanent deal, then double whatever wages Newcastle originally agreed with the 21 year old!

The next two in the list, Matt Ritchie and Ciaran Clark, both turned 28 earlier this month. So they don’t have quite the capacity to develop further as players but they are the pair who are clearly proven Premier League standard and players who can be the backbone of the team for the next four years or so.

Ciaran Clark is easily Newcastle’s best defender, whilst Matt Ritchie is a great example to the rest with his work ethic, as well as the main source of inspiration and creativity at the minute.

I have Jonjo Shelvey as sixth most important but if he can come back into the team and perform regularly like he is capable of, then he would be up there with the top three. Has got great skills but doubts remain about his consistency and discipline/stupidity.

The other three players: Woodman, Yedlin and Hayden, are all in the very early stages of their careers, particularly when it comes to the Premier League.

Freddie Woodman is going all the way through the stages of the England set-up and now at Under 21 level, he is suggesting he can go beyond that.

Isaac Hayden has been a bit in and out this season after a great Championship year but he has got the physique, stamina and no little skill, which means he could mature into a very good midfield player.

As for DeAndre Yedlin, rough diamond would sum him up at the minute. Still has to work on his defending/positioning but with that blinding pace he could well turn into the kind of attacking full-back that is seen as essential in the Premier League these days.

If I had added one more, it would have been Florian Lejeune, but I felt I couldn’t really do that after only half an hour of competitive football so far. However, against Spurs and in the pre-season friendlies, the defender suggested he could be very good.

No prizes for spotting that I overlooked Jamaal Lascelles. He is an ok defender and has great commitment and decent leadership qualities but not for me, great as a squad player but I do think Newcastle have better options already at the club.

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