Rafa Benitez has revealed Gareth Southgate has never spoken to him about Jonjo Shelvey – but believes the Newcastle playmaker can be the ‘Gazza’ who the England manager desperately wants in his side.
The Three Lions boss spoke during the international break about the country’s absence of a ball-playing midfielder, claiming that Paul Gascoigne was the last world-class player capable of dictating a game.
Benitez, though, believes Shelvey fits the bill given his range of passing and courage in getting on the ball.
Jonjo Shelvey can offer England the creativity they crave, according to Rafa Benitez
Asked if the 26-year-old could provide the Gazza-like creativity which Southgate craves, the Spaniard said: ‘For me, yes. He has quality, he has the vision, he can make these passes that strikers like in behind the defenders.
‘In a team, in a squad, you have to have different kind of players, I don’t see many of this kind of player with England.
‘I don’t know what the England manager thinks, I am the manager of Newcastle and I have to decide for Newcastle, but can he play for England? Yes, he can.
‘He can dictate the pace of the game and, if he can do that, he can play for any team because he has the technical ability.’
Southgate left Shelvey out of his World Cup squad amid concerns over his temperament after he was sent off twice last season, although he did not pick up a single card from January onwards.
Benitez, however, says he was never contacted by the England chief or one of his staff to discuss the player he first signed for Liverpool in 2010.
Benitez confirmed he will have Shelvey and Matt Ritchie fit for the visit of Arsenal on Saturday
‘No, we have not spoken, but I do not need to push anyone,’ he added. ‘He (Southgate) has his own people, but if he was asking me about Shelvey, I would say ‘yes’.
‘But he knows what he wants to do and what players he has, it is his decision.
‘As for that (his temperament), he is much better. He is older, more mature, he has more experience so he is dealing with those situations a lot better.’
Shelvey will return for Saturday’s visit of Arsenal after a thigh absence and Benitez says there is a simple explanation for the debate which surrounds his star player.
‘It is because he is good,’ he said. ‘If he was bad, no-one would be talking about him. When he’s a good player, you can say, ‘Oh, I like this, but I don’t like that’. But if he was a bad player… nothing.’