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EXCLUSIVE: On-loan Achraf Lazaar talks Newcastle future & Benitez contact

In an exclusive interview with Tribalfootball, Achraf Lazaar says he is in constant contact with Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez and remains focused on continuing his future at St. James' Park.

The 25-year-old, currently on loan at Serie A club Benevento, left in acrimonious fashion after a disastrous debut season on Tyneside.

Despite his side lifting the title on the last day of the season, the Morocco international hardly had much to celebrate on a personal level. After arriving from Palermo for £2m, Lazaar played just 37 minutes in his four league appearances.

Frustrated, the left-back lashed out in an interview, slating Magpies boss Rafa Benitez for breaking promises given to him when he snubbed Fiorentina to join Newcastle. However, he later stated that he was misquoted in the interview.

Now back in his naturalised home of Italy, Lazaar has told Tribalfootball that he has kept in contact with his Magpies' teammates via social media application, WhatsApp, and is regularly sent messages by manager Rafa Benitez.

"Of course," said Lazaar. "I have a wonderful relationship with the guys at Newcastle, we have a group on WhatsApp, I follow them and they follow me because I really feel one of them.

"Besides, I have a five years contract with them! When you sign a contract for five years with a club, you feel like a son and they become your family.

"I receive many messages for every match I play from Rafa Benitez and it really gives me pleasure.

"I appreciate him so much, he is a great manager who has won a lot. I haven't had so much space with him last year, but I just needed to adapt myself. Now I need to put minutes in my legs, to play and to find what I was lacking last year."

Expanding on his relationship with Benitez, Lazaar expressed his respect for the Spaniard's honesty and attentiveness.

"He is always interested in what I do, he always sends me messages and I'm really pleased," he continued.

"This means that he has interest in me and that maybe he sees a part for me in his plans. He has always been really clear and frank towards me and always told me what was wrong with me. He told me that I had always to think to give my 100%, but I didn't."

Lazaar is recovering from a knee injury that has kept him out of Benevento's previous three Serie A matches, including the dramatic draw with AC Milan, which earned the Stregoni their first point of the season.

Prior to his injury, Lazaar featured nine times in the league and managed to score in Benevento's loss to Lazio.

The newly promoted side, currently rock-bottom of the Serie A table, didn't receive an option to make Lazaar's loan deal permanent.

And the 6ft defender has revealed that he engineered the move not to get away from Newcastle permanently, but withe the intent of returning next season better prepared to perform.

"No options, nothing at all," said Lazaar. "Furthermore I can tell you one thing: Newcastle didn't even want me to go away on loan. It was me.

"I let them understand that I really cared about playing more minutes. The most important thing, in my opinion, for a football player is playing the more minutes possible, in order to have the right concentration, the right focus that you have on the matches.

"You can even train a lot, you can train a lot on the extras and I do it very much, but the matches are different.

"And that was what I missed very much. This is why I decided to come back on loan to Italy. I wanted to find again the Lazaar I was, in the league where I was born, in order to come back to Newcastle much stronger than before."

Make sure you visit Tribalfootball on Friday to read Emanuele Giulianelli's full interview with Achraf Lazaar.

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