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Benitez already planning Newcastle squad for next season

But the Spaniard is targeting 40 points before contract talks about extending his current deal.

Liverpool v Newcastle United – Premier League – Anfield
Liverpool v Newcastle United – Premier League – Anfield

Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez is already making plans for next season despite uncertainty over his future on Tyneside.

The 57-year-old Spaniard will not countenance entering into talks over extending his current contract at St James’ Park, which will have a year to run at the end of the season, until the club has collected the 40 points he believes will secure its Premier League status.

However, he is already looking to how the current squad can be re-shaped if he remains at the helm.

Benitez, who takes his side to Leicester on Saturday sitting on 35 points, said: “The main thing is to get 40 points. If we are there, it will be easier to start working on everything.

“But at the same time, we are already working on that, not just me, but also the scouting department, [managing director] Lee Charnley.

“We are trying to advance and be sure we make the right decisions for the future. But obviously you cannot say, “We will do this or that signing” because you do not know [where the club will be].

“But you are working on names and on what you improve for the next few years. It is part of my responsibility. But it is not as if my future will change this or that.

“We will start working and we can make decisions and if everything is finished because we get 40 points.”

The Magpies have lost just three of their last 13 league games – to leaders Manchester City twice and third-placed Liverpool – and the form of midfield playmaker Jonjo Shelvey has been key to that run.

Match of the Day pundit Danny Murphy suggested at the weekend that Shelvey’s passing ability could be invaluable to England at this summer’s World Cup finals and although his chance may have gone when he was not called into the squad for last month’s friendlies, Benitez is confident he would have something to offer national boss Gareth Southgate.

The Spaniard said: “He is different, so he can be a good player for any squad. If you have the motivation of the World Cup, I think he will be great.

“I’m sure the manager will think the other players will be great too, but my feeling is that if he is just going there focused, then he can be a great player.”

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