Benitez stands by decision to sell Mitrovic

Aleksandar Mitrovic has been a vital player for Fulham. [Picture: Steven Paston/PA Wire]

Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez will welcome Aleksandar Mitrovic back to St James’ Park on Saturday insisting he does not regret selling him.

The 24-year-old Serbia international left Tyneside for Fulham in a deal which could eventually amount to £27million in August having contributed 12 goals to the club’s successful bid for promotion to the Premier League during a loan spell last season.

He has prospered back in the top flight too with seven league goals already under his belt, just three fewer than the £14.5million signing managed in one and a half Premier League seasons with the Magpies.

However Benitez, who replaced Mitrovic with loan signing Salomon Rondon, is happy with the business he did as he prepares for the Londoners’ trip to the north east this weekend.

He said: “In life, but especially in football, it’s important to understand the context of every situation.

“We are talking about Mitrovic here and it’s true that the was sent off in some games or he was banned for an elbow and things like that, but now he is doing well.

Fulham’s defensive shortcomings have marred their season so far. [Picture: John Walton/PA Wire]

“He was not scoring as many goals as we were expecting for us. Fine, but it doesn’t mean that he’s not a good player and he can’t score a lot of goals for Fulham, and he’s doing that.

“He’s fine there. Is he happier because we are talking about London or whatever? I don’t know. But anyway, he’s doing well, the team is playing for him and then he’s doing what everybody was expecting from him, scoring goals and fighting for every ball.

“For us, it wasn’t the case. We had maybe a different approach and it was more difficult for him, and when you are not playing, you lose some confidence.”

Despite Mitrovic’s goals, Fulham currently sit at the foot of the table, seven points adrift of Newcastle in 14th place, and while Benitez will wish his former player well, he will be even happier with the decision to sell him if that gap has grown by the final whistle.

He said: “Now he is fine and I wish him, believe me, all the best because I didn’t have any special problem, apart from making decisions in terms of whether you play or not.

“If he cannot score goals, fine, but I would like to see him not scoring against us – it means we have more chances to win – and I would like to see our team ahead of Fulham at the end of the season, that’s it.”