Rafael Benitez’s decision to accept Newcastle United’s offer to become their new manager raised a few eyebrows in the relegation-threatened Premier League club’s dressing room, midfielder Moussa Sissoko has said.
The Spaniard, who replaced the sacked Steve McClaren on Friday, has won the Champions League, Europa League and two La Liga titles, and Sissoko said Newcastle’s players were surprised he had joined a team sitting second-bottom of the standings.
“We were surprised to see him come to Newcastle because normally he is playing every year for the title and Champions League,” Sissoko was quoted as saying by the Guardian.
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“We were all happy and now we have nine games left and he will bring his experience and we can be in the Premier League next season with him.
“He worked with (Real) Madrid, Liverpool, some very good teams. We need to listen to what he says because he is one of the best managers in the world. We need to follow him.”
Newcastle, who lost 1-0 at leaders Leicester City in Benitez’s first game in charge on Monday, face Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear derby on Sunday, having lost to their rivals in their last six league meetings.
Sunderland are 17th in the table, a point and two places above Newcastle, and Sissoko hopes his team can bring that losing streak to an end.
“Every derby is a big game, we are in the bottom three and have nine games left and we need to win. This game will be crucial for us,” he said.