Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez has suggested that January signing Islam Slimani will not walk straight into the starting lineup once he returns from injury.
Slimani has not had the chance to play for the Magpies since signing on loan from Leicester in January due to a thigh problem, which has ruled him out until the end of March. He is now getting closer to being able to play, and has travelled with the Algeria squad for their upcoming friendlies against Tanzania and Iran.
Speaking to the Shields Gazette, via HITC, Benitez hinted at the possibility of Slimani still being sidelined once he has returned to full fitness: “If they are doing well, he (Slimani) has to be better than them.
“It’s not as if he will come and go straight (into the team) and make the difference. The others are doing well, and he has to compete with them. It’s positive, because we have more competition in one position.”
Newcastle's strikers are currently in good form, with Dwight Gayle netting two goals and providing two assists in his last four games. It will be difficult for Slimani to break into the first team, based on these comments from Benitez.
The Algerian joined Leicester in August 2016 for a club record £28m. Since then he has only scored 12 goals in 44 appearances. This is compared to his final full season at Sporting CP, where he found the back of the net 31 times in 44 games, which prompted Leicester to sign him.
He will now look to improve his poor record in England on loan at Newcastle so that he can force his way back into a Leicester squad that still lacks a decent second striker to star man Jamie Vardy.
Slimani will look to make his debut for the Magpies in their first game back from international duty against Huddersfield. A solid performance in this important game would do wonders for his confidence and could solidify a place in the starting lineup.