Sports News of Sun, 5 Mar 20177

Rafa Benitez impressed by Atsu's performance but coy on his future

Rafa Benitez has been impressed by Christian Atsu’s recent form - but insists Newcastle United have “plenty of time” to resolve the winger’s long-term future.

Atsu has had a hand in three of Newcastle’s last four goals, including providing the assist for Ayoze Perez’s winner at Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday.

The 25-year-old joined the Magpies on a season-long loan from Chelsea last summer, but the Magpies have first option on signing the Ghanaian permanently this summer if they secure promotion.

And, though Benitez is content with the winger’s contribution so far this term, he wants to continue to assess Atsu’s progress during the final dozen matches of the season - starting at Huddersfield Town - before contemplating making an offer to Chelsea.

''His future is very clear - if he plays against Huddersfield, he has to be man of the match again!” Benitez joked, before offering a serious answer.

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''We have plenty of time, so no problem,” he added.

''Atsu is doing well.

''He was doing well before, and after playing a lot of games in the Africa Cup of Nations, he has come back and regained his form little by little.

''That is quite good. We are really pleased with him.

''Hopefully, he can play well until the end.''

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Atsu joined Chelsea in 2013 from Porto but has never made an appearance for his parent club, instead being sent on loan five times.

Successful spells at Vitesse Arnhem and Malaga were split either side of disappointing stints at Everton and AFC Bournemouth, before his summer move to Tyneside.

''He’s playing good football because he’s a good player and everybody is supporting him.''

Yoan Gouffran and Matt Ritchie have been Benitez’s first-choice wingers for the majority of the campaign, but the Spaniard wanted a different option out wide as well.

He chose Atsu due to the Ghana international’s pace and trickery - and likes the variety the Chelsea loanee offers.

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''When we were watching players for this position in the summer, we were looking for someone like him,'' Benitez continued.

''He can pass and run behind defenders and create and score goals.

''We are happy with him.''

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