Jamaal Lascelles has heaped praise on Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez, admitting that it would be a "massive loss" if he were to leave St. James' Park.
Speaking to the Daily Mail's Ian Ladyman, the Newcastle captain spoke of his own development under Benitez, and said that the Spaniard would have kept Newcastle in the Premier League in 2015/16 had he been appointed sooner.
"I can see why other people would want him as he is world class," said Lascelles. "It would be a massive loss for us. Since he came in everything has been positive, from the reaction of the fans, the respect of the players and what he gets from the players and how we are playing.
"If he had arrived earlier last time round he would have kept us up. I have come on leaps and bounds since he has been here."
Despite failing to prevent Newcastle's relegation to the Championship in 2016, Benitez became a popular figure among Magpies supporters and was handed a three-year contract by owner Mike Ashley. His first move was to make Lascelles club captain at the age of just 22.
However, the relationship between Benitez and Ashley has been far from harmonious due to conflict over the club's transfer policy. Newcastle fans have berated the owner on social media for his apparent reluctance to buy new players.
Mike Ashley "promised to invest in January if the takeover has not gone through by then."— NUFC 360 (@NUFC360) January 10, 2018
10th Jan and our manager doesn't know his budget.
On the other hand, Benitez remains a hugely popular figure on Tyneside, and it is clear that Lascelles shares the Newcastle fans' admiration for the Spaniard - and their fears over his possible departure if the current tension continues.
"I think we should do our best to make sure he is comfortable and for me they should be giving him what he wants because they won't find anyone any better than him," Lascelles said.
Newcastle currently sit 13th in the Premier League, two points above the relegation zone. They host bottom club Swansea City this Saturday.