'He's turned Newcastle around' - Shelvey says Benitez must stay

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The former Real Madrid head coach may yet depart St James' Park in the summer, but the England man says that cannot be allowed to happen

Keeping hold of Rafael Benitez should be Newcastle United's top priority in the off-season, according to Jonjo Shelvey.

After guiding the club back to the Premier League in his first full season in charge, Benitez has steered Newcastle clear of the relegation zone to retain their top-flight status.

However, despite his success since replacing Steve McClaren, the Spaniard's future at St James' Park remains unclear.

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Shelvey has called on Newcastle to do everything possible to keep hold of a manager who has not only lifted the mood in the club but also across the entire city.

"I have got a good feeling that the manager will stay and we will keep building and that will probably be the most important signing of the summer, making Rafa stay," he told Sky Sports.

"When I first came to the club there wasn't really a link between the fans and the players and he has just turned the whole city around.

"There is just such a buzz in Newcastle. Everywhere you go the fans are always talking to you and things like that.

"He has just turned the whole place around."

Shelvey's own form this season has led to calls for the former Liverpool midfielder to be included in England's World Cup squad.

Benitez - who signed the player during his tenure at Anfield - believes the 26-year-old, who has won six caps for his country, would be a useful option for Gareth Southgate to have in his 23-man party for Russia.

"He’s a different kind of midfielder," he told Sky Sports after his side's 1-0 loss to Tottenham at Wembley Stadium.

"When you talk about the squad, different kinds of players can give you different options for different games."

 

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