Rafa Benitez believes that a lot of people haven’t realised juts how well Florian Lejeune has done, considering the obstacles put in his way.
The is only the French defender’s second season in top flight football and the Newcastle boss thinks that when he plays, ‘he gives us something different from defence’, with his ‘quality on the ball’.
The last three seasons had seen Florian Lejeune play 81 games in the Spanish second tier for Girona over two seasons and then take the step up and make 34 league appearances for Eibar in La Liga.
However, a ridiculous tackle from Harry Kane put him out of action for two months on his debut.
Rafa then saying he couldn’t believe it when December then saw a freak accident involving Ayoze Perez, which led to another two months out of the first team.
Coming back in for the win over Manchester United, Lejeune has done really well, helping Newcastle to get seven points from the last four matches, teaming up really well with Jamaal Lascelles.
“I think Florian Lejeune is doing really well and I, at the same time, feel he has been really unlucky, which isn’t something I think a lot of people realise.
“I was talking with Antonio (Gomez – Newcastle’s first-team coach) about this and about when Florian was at Girona and Eibar.
“He had no injuries in Spain. He was always playing, every game.
“Then, for us, in the first game against Tottenham, one bad tackle (by Harry Kane), a big problem, and since then he had a couple of months, before kicking a ball during a tackle with Ayoze and there is another injury.
“So he has been really unlucky for someone who is coming here; a new centre-back, someone who needs to know what it means to be involved in the physicality of the Premier League.
“He is a player who has quality on the ball, and also he has to change the way he was playing, because at Eibar he was pushing up and for us he has to know when to push up or drop off.
“The first year in the Premier League is quite difficult for everyone, but especially a centre-back, particularly for a centre-back who’s good on the ball.
“Florian’s good on the ball, and everybody’s also expecting him to be strong and good in the air, but the main thing is he has this quality on the ball.
“When Florian plays, he gives us something different from defence, and the understanding between him and Jamaal is positive.”