Rafa Benitez has hinted that Aleksandar Mitrovic could yet make a way into his Premier League plans for Newcastle, after the striker impressed with his fighting spirit in pre-season.
Mitrovic has looked sharp in pre-season with only Dwight Gayle scoring more, and his most recent goal against Wolfsburg highlighted to Benitez that he is fighting for his life.
Benitez told the Shield Gazette “Mitrovic was working hard – that was the main thing.
“We told him before that he would play 45 minutes, so he has to give everything. He was trying. He had some chances to score a goal.
“He was there, and that’s what we were expecting. He was pushing and pressing the defenders and creating chances for himself and his team-mates.”
After not finding his way into Benitez's plans last season and at times being fourth choice striker, it was expected that Mitrovic would leave this summer, but his determination might yet see him force his way back into Benitez's thinking as the new season gets underway.
Mitrovic's passion has made him something of a fan favourite despite his inconsistent form and he cemented his cult status with a goal against arch rivals Sunderland before celebrating in spectacular fashion.
The 22-year-old Serbian returned nine goals in his first Premier League season back in 2015/16 and if he continues to demonstrate his goalscoring potential, Benitez will find it hard not to play him.
With the recent departure of Daryl Murphy, Newcastle have been on the hunt for a new striker.
Mitrovic and Gayle are the Magpies' only true strikers that Benitez has at his disposal and with the latter's injury record, Newcastle may yet dip into the market for more ammunition.