Islam Slimani has actually stepped onto a football pitch on Tuesday night.

This staggering event has happened in Graz, Austria.

Algeria were taking on Iran in a friendly and it is the striker’s first time on the pitch since 16 January.

Islam Slimani having spent his entire time at Newcastle on the injured list.

Rafa Benitez made clear (see below) that he expected Algeria only to use him if he was fully fit and recovered from injury.

Iran led 2-0 at half-time only for Algeria to pull a goal back through Chafai on 55 minutes, then in the 64th minute Islam Slimani was brought on for Medjani.

Four minutes later and Slimani was…booked, after a collision with an Iranian defender, before then on 70 minutes putting a header just wide.

Could be good news for Rafa Benitez if he has a new forward option but a nightmare if Slimani breaks down again.

(Update: The game has now ended just before 7pm UK time and Islam Slimani has reached the end of the match apparently unscathed…final score Iran 2 Algeria 1. Initial feedback is that he didn’t look fully fit and lacked movement.)

The Mag – Monday 26 March:

Rafa Benitez wasn’t happy when Algeria called up Islam Slimani, despite the striker not having being fit to play since the middle of January.

The Newcastle boss saying last weekend (see below) that ‘It is not ideal but we cannot stop them or stop him playing.’

He also expressed the hope that Algeria would only play him in the friendlies if he was fully fit.

On Thursday, Algeria took on Tanzania and beat them 4-1, Islam Slimani wasn’t involved.

All eyes then turned to the next game for Algeria, which is a friendly against Iran onTuesday (27 March).

It was then quickly reported in the Algerian media that Islam Slimani had also been ruled out of that match, some five days before it was due to be played.

However, breaking news on Monday afternoon from DZ Football, who specialise in covering Algerian football, is that Islam Slimani has made much better progress than expected and is now a possibility to start against Iran tomorrow.

DZ Football:


“Islam Slimani recovering sooner than first thought and is a possibility to start tomorrow’s match vs Iran.”

Rafa Benitez will no doubt have mixed feelings about this news on Monday, obviously encouraged by the positive reports regarding his improved fitness to play BUT at the same time worried in case the striker breaks down again if used tomorrow.

The Mag – 17 March 2018:

Rafa Benitez is in a difficult position with Islam Slimani, having ruled the player out of playing against Royal Antwerp in Newcastle’s friendly on Sunday.

The United boss desperate for the striker to give him extra goal threat in the remaining games of the relegation fight.

However, now stuck in a club v country clash where he is powerless to dictate matters.

Rafa has explained on Saturday how they have to take it very careful with Slimani’s return but accepts there is nothing he can do if Algeria play the striker regardless and/or if Islam Slimani himself just decides to have a game.

Algeria play Tanzania in a friendly on Thursday (22 March) and that will be over nine weeks since Slimani played any football.

Five days later (against Iran on Tuesday 27 March) they play once again, four days before Newcastle take on Huddersfield in the Premier League.

Rafa Benitez speaking to Matthew Raisbeck of BBC Newcastle:

Islam Slimani had the problem before and we thought he was fine, and he was telling us he was fine.

“He was pushing himself a little bit and still he was not fully fit.

“We needed to be cautious, so we went back, started again – slowly – just in case.

(Rafa Benitez on the position with Islam Slimani and Algeria):

“It is not ideal but we cannot stop them or stop him playing.

“At the same time, we want to him to play to be sure he’s a little bit better if he has to play against Huddersfield.

“He is progressing.

“Our medical stuff are talking with the medical staff of his national team.

“Hopefully, he will progress in the days ahead and we will see if he can play some minutes there (for Algeria).”

  • Jimbo Jones

    I’m past caring about having Slimani in the team. I hope I am wrong, but I doubt he will make any difference.

    • nufcslf

      Yip and probably closer to the truth. Club is such a joke with fatty in charge anything goes if it has nothing to do with the actual football and puts money in his back pocket. Hard to care when the owner doesn’t.

  • East Durham Mag

    It will be interesting to see if he declares himself fit when he gets back.

  • Paul Patterson

    I’m waiting for the forthcoming ‘ . . Suffered a reaction’ headlines in the coming days.

  • TheNutJob

    He`s had a run out & after 10 weeks he`s bound to be rusty.

  • Geordiegiants

    Another Doumbia by the looks of things.

  • Rich Lawson

    Gets called up for national service before he can get on the plane back !

  • Mxpx

    I think a small cameo appearance and back to Leicester is all we can expect

  • Wor Lass

    Good – I`m sure the whole thing was planned with Rafa`s full knowledge. He gets a run-out in a semi-serious game to test his fitness. If he breaks down it`s those irresponsible Algerians to blame and if not then he`s a small step nearer to being match-fit. I expect he`ll be on the bench at the weekend.

  • Monkseaton Magpies

    Will be on the bench on Saturday and might come on for the last fifteen minutes but would not surprise me if he stuck with joselu as Rafa does not like playing players who have been travelling long distances a couple of days before games.

  • Mrkgw

    Drop him off at Leicester and bring back Mitrovic. These deals have been none other than criminal. Abysmal.

  • Colin Brumwell

    Is that Islam Slimarcelino