There have been times gone by when Newcastle had a whole line-up of saleable assets, but there remains now only one player whose departure would really hurt supporters. The man in question is, of course, Jamaal Lascelles.

Much has been made of Lascelles’ ascent at St James’ Park, culminating in him lifting the Championship trophy last term, but even this season he has moved from the fringes of a newly promoted Newcastle team to the verge of the England side.

And it appears Chelsea are taking notice, with reports in London on Thursday suggesting they are interested in prising the Magpies captain away from St James’ Park.

Setting aside whether it would be a good move for Lascelles – Chelsea already have a whole school of talented centre-backs – it is a transfer Newcastle simply cannot facilitate.

The contrasting form of the side with and without Lascelles has been heavily documented, but that does not make it any less impressive. When he plays, Newcastle concede less and pick up more points.

That is as much to do with the 24-year-old’s leadership skills as his clear quality on the pitch, with other players lifting their game when they feel the wrath of the skipper, just ask Mo Diame…

Lascelles is not the only player who can drive his team-mates on – Ciaran Clark, Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle can all bark out instructions – but no other commands the respect he does.

Rafa Benitez, too, relies heavily on Lascelles, who is his eyes, ears and – crucially – mouth within the squad.

The former Nottingham Forest should – one would hope – be content within a set-up where both he and the team are always improving under a top-class manager.

Even if Lascelles were to be tempted by a switch, though, Chelsea should be required to consider his importance to the team, the club and the city when making an opening bid.

Regardless, Newcastle would be foolish to even consider accepting it.

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