Newcastle United’s Sean Longstaff played the best football of his career under Rafa Benitez. That is undeniable.
The Spaniard gave Longstaff his Toon debut back in 2018, being thrust into Premier League action amid an injury crisis in midfield.
He came off the bench late in a Boxing Day defeat to Liverpool, almost finding the net after skipping past the sometimes unstoppable Virgil van Dijk.
A few weeks later he made his first Premier League start, playing alongside Isaac Hayden in a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea.
While the result was disappointing, this was the start of a sensational run of form that still defines Longstaff to this day.
The academy graduate went toe-to-toe with some of the best in the world and didn’t look out of place, even playing an important role in a historic win over Manchester City.
On March 2nd 2019, disaster struck. Longstaff got injured in a defeat to West Ham, ending his breakthrough season early.
Since then, nothing has been the same for him. He’s struggled for form, while there’s been a change of manager. The man who gave him his big break left, and was replaced by Steve Bruce.
Two years on and there’s talk he could leave.
Could Sean Longstaff and Rafa Benitez be reunited?
The 23-year-old’s contract expires next summer, and there is a chance he may leave this month.
A reunion with Benitez would make sense for Longstaff, as the new Toffees boss clearly knows how to get the best out of him.
Not only that, but the pair have also been in contact since Benitez exited St James’ Park.
According to the Athletic, Benitez sends Longstaff regular advice.
Sadly, he doesn’t usually get to put the advice into practice, spending most of his days out of the Newcastle team.
He briefly appeared on Sunday, coming off the bench for the final 10 minutes when the game was as good as gone.
It speaks volumes about Benitez’s love for the game that even after leaving Newcastle he is still trying to help players improve. If only he was still the man patrolling the touchline at St James’ Park.
But instead it’s Bruce, who doesn’t seem overly keen on the eldest Longstaff.