Emil Krafth reveals Newcastle United changes which have helped him

The contract news ahead of Newcastle United’s visit to the Estadio da Luz was unexpected, though it shouldn’t really have been a surprise.

The club announced in the hours before Tuesday night’s Eusebio Cup game against Benfica that Emil Krafth had signed a one-year extension to his contract keeping him at St James’s Park until 2024.

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Krafth made 18 Premier League starts last season – more than in his first two seasons at the club.

Head coach Eddie Howe said: “I'm very pleased Emil has extended his stay with us. He made an excellent contribution to the team last season – and he continues to add valuable strength to us."

When England international Kieran Trippier, signed in January from Atletico Madrid, suffered an foot injury in February, Howe turned to Krafth, and the 27-year-old – who had endured a challenging start to his career at the club during Steve Bruce’s time in charge – played his part in a remarkable turnaround for the team, which had been bottom of the Premier League after Howe’s first game in charge.

The club finished the season in 11th place.

Krafth, for his part, was happy to extend his stay at the club he joined from Amiens in the summer of 2019.

Newcastle United defender Emil Krafth.

“I’m very happy to stay at Newcastle, to extend my stay here with one more year,” said the right-back. “I think I played really well last season.

“After Tripps got injured, he gave me the chance, and I think I took it. I think I deserve to have an extension. We had a good talk, me and the club and my agent. I’m very happy that we found a solution here.”

Krafth took his time to find his feet on Tyneside – and in English football – and it was only after Howe’s arrival that he really got into his stride.

Newcastle United defender Emil Krafth last season.

The Sweden international – who has won 42 caps at senior level – isn’t the only one to have raised his game since Howe succeeded Bruce in the wake of last October’s £305million takeover.

Asked about the progress he made last season, Krafth said: “I think a big part of it has been the takeover and the coach.

“Eddie really believed in me, and the way that he wanted to play suits me, like pressing high. I just think the way we play, and how the coach believes in you, gives you confidence.

“It can be any player. It’s not just me. You see more and more players at the club have raised their levels as well. I’m one of them. I think it’s just the way the coach wants to play, and how he believes in you.”

Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe.

Krafth’s first two seasons were punctuated by protests against then-owner Mike Ashley. There were also loud calls for Bruce to go in the early part of last season following a winless start to the campaign.

“What can I say? I came to a club where the supporters weren’t really happy, so I’m very happy for the club that the takeover went through,” said Krafth.

“Since then, it’s only going uphill. I hope we can continue and build for the future. I think, in the near-future, Newcastle’s going to be a top-six club in the Premier League, but it’s not going to happen overnight.

“It’s going to take some time. But, I think, in the near-future, is going to be a top club.”

Krafth and his team-mates had a taste of top-level European competition against Benfica on Tuesday night – and they matched their hosts until late in the game when Joelinton was sent off.

Emil Krafth playing for Sweden last month.

The game ended in a 3-2 defeat. MIguel Almiron scored both of United's goals.

"It was a really good performance,” said Howe. "I was really pleased, as it was a difficult game against high-quality opposition. It had a Premier League feel about it, I thought. It was just what we needed at this stage for our preparations for the new season."

Krafth felt that his team didn’t deserve to lose the fixture.

“I think it was a good test for us,” said Krafth, who could face Atalanta at St James’s Park tonight. “They’re a good side, playing at home with their fans (behind them).

“We didn’t deserve to lose, 2-2 after the first half, and, I think, in the first 20 minutes of the second half we were dominating them, pressing high and winning the ball back, and I think we deserved to score one or two goals in the second half as well, but it’s small margins.

“In the end, we got a red card and had to defend a little bit more. They scored a goal. Overall, I think it’s a good test for us, and we have two more important games.

“It’s good to play at home. It’s good for us to have two home games before the Premier League starts.”

The Atalanta fixture is following by a home game tomorrow against Athletic Bilbao, the team the club faced in the UEFA Cup in the 1994/95 season following a third-placed finish the previous campaign under Kevin Keegan.

The hope among fans and players alike is that Howe, backed by United’s new owners, can guide the club, which only had one continental campaign during Ashley’s time as owner, back into Europe.

“As players, we want to play at the highest level,” said Krafth. “I hope, and really think, that the club’s going to be there in a few years.”