Benitez tells Mags to enjoy Kenedy while they have him

Kenedy hits home Newcastle's early opener.
Kenedy hits home Newcastle's early opener.

Rafa Benitez has told Newcastle United to “enjoy” Kenedy while they can – as he doesn’t know if the winger will be back next season.

The Chelsea loanee scored twice in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Southampton.

Matt Ritchie also found the net at St James’s Park as the Magpies pulled away from the drop zone ahead of a 21-day break between Premier League fixtures.

Kenedy opened the scoring with just 63 seconds gone, after chesting down a ball from Jonjo Shelvey and beating Alex McCarthy with a shot on the turn.

Dwight Gayle set up Kenedy for his second goal in the 29th minute, and Ritchie completed the scoring with a fine strike after the break.

Kenedy joined in January on a half-season loan from Chelsea, but the deal doesn’t have a provision to make the switch permanent.

Benitez said: “I have no idea if there’s a chance we can keep him after the end of the season.

“I think, at the moment, we have to make sure we enjoy him while he’s here.”

Benitez tried and failed to sign Kenedy on loan last summer. Asked what difference Kenedy had made to his team, Benitez said: “It’s more than his energy and pace, he’s a player who is comfortable on the ball.

“His delivery, his crosses and set pieces ... he’s somebody who is different and he’s a player playing with confidence now. His goals will help that.

“We already had a bit of pace with (Christian) Atsu and (Jacob) Murphy and the ability and work rate of Ritchie, but Kenedy is good on the ball. He doesn’t give it away easily, and he gives us more control.”

Asked if Kenedy was happy on Tyneside, Benitez said: “He has slotted in very well, and, to be fair, the atmosphere between players is very good.

“HHis confidence is good, and he has the possibility to express himself here. He wants to play football, and he’s doing that really well.”

Asked about Kenedy’s first goal, Benitez said: “With him, any situation is good for me when you see a player with quality using his quality to make a difference.”

Goalscorer Ritchie told NUFC TV: “We need to take one step at a time. We’ve had a few good results, we need to continue to work hard, do what we have been doing.

“Performances are coming together as a whole now and we’re performing really well as a team. We need to continue to work as we have been, concentrate on that and hopefully we can keep picking up points.”

Newcastle: Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett, Ritchie, Shelvey (Merino 83), Diame, Kenedy (Atsu 78), Perez, Gayle (Joselu 69). Subs not used: Clark, Murphy, Manquillo, Darlow. Goals: Kenedy 2, 29, Ritchie 57.

Southampton: McCarthy, Cedric, Stephens, Hoedt, Bertrand, Hojbjerg, Lemina (Sims 46), Ward-Prowse, Tadic (Long 46), Redmond, Carrillo (Gabbiadini 66). Subs not used: Romeu, Boufal, Bednarek, Forster. Booked: Hoedt, Stephens.

Att: 52,246. Ref: Andre Marriner (West Midlands).