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Rafa Benitez heaps praise on Florian Lejeune

“Florian was someone that was coming to a new country last year, and he needed to settle down. He could pass the ball from centre-back, and he needed time to cope with the pace and physicality of the Premier League. He needed this time, he was injured - believe me, I was talking with him and asking, and he was never injured when he was in Spain. He was always playing.

“He came here and in the first game, boom, injured. A little time out, then another long-term injury, and that is hard to deal with psychologically. Then, in the months after he came back, he settled down because he is strong mentally, and then he was passing the ball and giving confidence to the team and all the players around. He became a very important player for us.

“And then during pre-season, he got another long-term injury which will take a bit of time to get back from. That was a blow. We lost him just before the start of the season, so it didn’t give us too much time to get someone else in. Before Florian was injured, we had an idea to bring in another centre-back to replace Mbemba. We were talking with Schar already but, once Florian was injured, we had to bring in another one to be sure we had enough numbers there.

“Florian has been a big miss for us in terms of what he means for us as a crucial member of the team. The style of football he brings and helps us to adapt to is something we have lost. Now we need to see how we can cope without him. Federico is an important signing, Schar will take a little time to adapt, but we need to see what they can give us now Florian is out for a while. We have to change our style without him.”

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