Everton-linked Sean Longstaff: Rafa Benitez bond, Newcastle contract length and what he’s said about future

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The 23-year-old midfielder has been linked with a move to Goodison Park and a reunion with former Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez, who’s still an admirer.

Newcastle United midfielder Sean Longstaff has reportedly been attracting the interest of Everton during the summer transfer window.

Toffees boss Rafa Benitez remains an admirer of the 23-year-old, having handed him his debut when in charge of Magpies.

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At a glance: 5 key points

- Longstaff breakthrough under Benitez, making this Toon debut in December 2018 against Liverpool.

- The midfielder emerged from the youth ranks at his boyhood club, earning first-team experience on loan at Kilmarnock and Blackpool.

- Longstaff was tipped for England by Benitez before he suffered a long-term injury in March 2019.

- In total, the Geordie has made 68 appearances for Newscastle, scoring four times.

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- He’s previously been linked with a £50 million move to Manchester United.

What’s been said

Longstaff featured prominently for Newcastle during the pre-season period.

He started the final friendly of the summer - a 3-0 win over Norwich City - and looks like he’ll be involved in the Magpies’ Premier League opener against West Ham on Sunday.

Speaking after a friendly win at Doncaster Rovers, Longstaff insisted he was looking to fight his way into Steve Bruce’s plans.

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“I have played a lot of games now,” he told the Newcastle Chronicle. “I don’t know if it gets respected as much as it should.

“I don’t know how many other lads my age have played that many games. I can’t control that. I’m just looking to focus on me, and have a really good season, get myself in the manager’s plans.”

Breakthrough campaign

Longstaff spent the 2017-18 season on loan at League One outfit Blackpool where he netted nine times in 45 games.

He was set to join Portsmouth in the third tier the following campaign as his bid to gain more first-team experience continued.

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However, after catching Benitez’s eye in pre-season, the plug was pulled on a move to Fratton Park.

Sean Longstaff embraces with Rafa Benitez during his time at Newcastle boss. Picture: GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty ImagesSean Longstaff embraces with Rafa Benitez during his time at Newcastle boss. Picture: GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images
Sean Longstaff embraces with Rafa Benitez during his time at Newcastle boss. Picture: GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images | AFP via Getty Images

The highly-rated midfielder was handed a new four-year deal in November 2018 as he patiently waited to make his debut.

His bow for his boyhood club arrived a month later when he came off the bench in a 4-0 loss to Liverpool on Boxing Day.

Longstaff would continue to thrust himself into Benitez’s plans, making his full debut in the FA Cup against Blackburn Rovers before his maiden Premier League start against Chelsea.

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After becoming a regular starter, the North Shields-born midfielder’s campaign was curtailed in March when he suffered a long-term knee injury, having made 12 appearances in all competitions.

Backed for England

During Longstaff’s spell in the Newcastle side during 2018-19, he earned high praise from Benitez.

The Spaniard even felt that the youngster in Newcastle’s engine-room had the ability to represent England at senior level.

Speaking in February 2019, Benitez said: “Sean wouldn’t look out of place with England, there are not too many young English players with his quality.

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“I think he will go, he’s doing well and playing in the Premier League. I like to see my players going to the national team.

“I don’t care if it’s the Under-20s, Under-21s or even the senior side but I think he needs to go one step at a time. If we start talking too much about how well he’s doing, it’s a risk.”

Bit-part role under Bruce

Benitez left in the summer of 2019 and under successor Steve Bruce, Longstaff’s career has not continued on the same trajectory.

In Bruce’s first season in charge, Longstaff played 29 matches before featuring in 27 games last term.

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Not a bad number of games at all for someone who doesn’t turn 24 until October.

However, only 29 of those came in the Premier League and came on as a sub in 16 of those.

Considering the progress he was making under Benitez, it looked like Longstaff was on the cusp of becoming an important player for his boyhood club.

With Joe Willock looking likely to arrive from Arsenal on a permanent basis after his impressive loan spell during the second half of last term, it leaves Longstaff’s future in a precarious situation.

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Newcastle are hoping that Joe Willock returns on a permanent deal after impressing on loan from Arsenal last season. Picture: Stu Forster/ Getty Images.Newcastle are hoping that Joe Willock returns on a permanent deal after impressing on loan from Arsenal last season. Picture: Stu Forster/ Getty Images.
Newcastle are hoping that Joe Willock returns on a permanent deal after impressing on loan from Arsenal last season. Picture: Stu Forster/ Getty Images. | Getty Images

Jonjo Shelvey is returning from injury, while Bruce also had Isaac Hayden competing for a place in the middle of the park.

Longstaff’s brother, Matty, is also an option but he managed just 149 minutes of action during pre-season.

Previous interest

It wasn’t all that long ago that Longstaff was being talked about as a £50 million player.

That’s what Newcastle reportedly valued him at when Manchester United were interested in the summer of 2019.

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were believed to have lodged a £25 million bid but cooled their interest due to the Magpies’ price tag.

Contract length

Longstaff has entered the final year of his contract, which could be a key factor behind his potential departure.

Next summer, Newcastle risk losing the former Kilmarnock loanee on a free transfer.

Granted, the Magpies would be entitled to a compensation fee if they do offer Longstaff a new deal and he turns it down as he’s under 24.

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It would be significantly less than what they’d bank should he be sold this summer, however.

And with Newcastle looking to sign Willock for a fee in excess of £20 million, Bruce’s side may look to recoup some of those funds.

It’s fair to say that if Longstaff was to depart, it would be for substantially less than the £50 million that Newcastle previously demanded.

Where would he fit in at Everton?

Fabian Delph appears surplus to requirements while there’s also uncertainty surrounding Andre Gomes’ future.

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Fabian Delph appears surplus to requirements at Everton. Picture: Charlie Crowhurst/ Getty Images Fabian Delph appears surplus to requirements at Everton. Picture: Charlie Crowhurst/ Getty Images
Fabian Delph appears surplus to requirements at Everton. Picture: Charlie Crowhurst/ Getty Images | Getty Images

Meanwhile, former Mainz midfielder Jean-Philippe Gbamin has managed just three appearances since arriving a Goodison two years ago having been hampered by various injuries.

While Benitez has insisted the Ivory Coast international can play a prominent role, there are concerns over his ability to say healthy.

That leaves Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Tom Davies as the other senior centre-midfield options.

All three will feature prominently but Benitez would likely want to bolster his options in the engine room.

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