Achraf Lazaar is perhaps the most confusing of all of Rafa Benitez’ signings.
Not the most expensive or high profile but the left-back is a Moroccan international who was playing in Serie A…yet the Newcastle boss has never given him a single league start.
Particularly bizarre when you consider Newcastle were in the Championship when Lazaar arrived, not worthy of a single start in the second tier and indeed only 36 minutes off the bench in very brief sub appearances.
The former Palermo player is desperate to play football again and appears to accept that this will have to be at another club, although he does claim many Newcastle players want him in the first team.
In this latest interview with Italian media, Achraf Lazaar is careful to say nothing directly against Rafa Benitez but does make clear the manager has never spoken to him as to why he has been totally sidelined.
Lazaar was expected to play as an overage player in last night’s Checkatrade Trophy game but was missing from the squad.
He was given a place in the 25 man senior NUFC Premier League squad but this appeared to be just to make up the numbers, with surely a new club to be found for him in January, at least on loan.
Achraf Lazaar speaking to Calciomercato:
How are you doing at Newcastle, what can you tell us about this first part of the season?
“It’s not a good moment for me, I arrived at Newcastle to show what I can do and to improve but things are going differently.
“Honestly, I am very sorry but I accept this situation, I am training with the second team and I play in the reserve championship. I delivered three assists in the last two games and the coach and his staff is really helping me. They know it’s not an easy situation for me and they are trying to help me.
“Sometimes I train on my own after the end of training sessions to improve my level, that’s the only thing I can do if I want to improve because I am not playing Premier League games.”
How is your relationship with Benitez?
“I spoke with my team-mates, they say he is fine. I am sorry the team is not doing well especially because a lot of my team-mates would like me to be part of the team.
“I usually speak with them but the only thing I can do is accept the situation. If this is his choice I can only respect it.”
Did he explain his decision?
“Not with me. He speaks with my agent Roberto De Fanti.
“I had other expectations when I arrived here but, as I said, Benitez has made a decision and I respect it.
“Now it’s up to me. I have to convince him.
“Being out from a manager’s plans is a new situation for me. Other managers used to tell me that I have the qualities to play in a big team, but with Benitez is not the same. I will work as hard as I can, doing my best to return to the team.”
Why do you think Benitez is snubbing you?
“I don’t know what his plans are. Whatever is the reason I respect it because he is a great manager and I can only learn from him.”
What’s your target? Do you want to play for the first team of Newcastle or leave in January?
“There is still time. My agent knows what he has to tell the club.
“Personally, I will work hard, every day, to be ready for everything. Whenever the manager will need me, I will have to be ready. I am fit, and I have been training hard to have even just half chance to prove Benitez that he was wrong.”
What about your relationship with Newcastle fans?
“Lots of them write to me on social media to tell me that they’d want to see me on the pitch, with the first team.
“It’s something that I really appreciate because I didn’t have much time to show my skills here in Newcastle.
“They haven’t seen the real Lazaar yet but they haven’t forgotten about me.”
What happens with Morocco now?
“The manager says he is sorry because I don’t deserve this situation.
“My team-mates, who are like brothers for me, are supporting me and are also sorry for what I am going through. I speak with many of them. Especially Benatia, he is always ready to support me when things are not going well. We are close friends.
“The coach can’t give me a call-up if I don’t play with my club but I hope to be back soon.”