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Rafa Benitez's First XI: Where are they now?

Leicester City (a), Premier League, 14/03/2016: Lost 0-1

Rob Elliot: Elliot began Rafa Benitez's time at Newcastle as the first choice keeper following Tim Krul's season-ending injury he suffered the previous October. Elliot's performances in the 2015/16 season earned him the fans' choice for the club's player of the season.

However, soon after Benitez's arrival, he picked up a serious injury which kept him out for a year. This gave Karl Darlow the chance to shine and he was eventually preferred to new signing Matz Sels between the sticks. Once Elliot recovered from injury, he became the first choice keeper as Tim Krul had left the club whilst he was on the sidelines. The Irish international was given the no.1 shirt for the 2017/18 season where he shared the goalkeeping duties with Karl Darlow.

However, after Martin Dubravka made his debut for Newcastle, the Slovakian international has been ever-present in league football for the Magpies and demoting Elliot to become third-choice goalkeeper behind Dubravka and Darlow. At the age of 33, he is still on the books at the club.

Daryl Janmaat: The Dutch right back was a mainstay in that position and left the club soon after the 2016/17 Championship season started. He is now in his fourth season at Watford and has made over 80 appearances for the Hornets. Now at the age of 30, he is deemed as back up now at Vicarage Road with the Spanish Kiko Femenia being preferred by Nigel Pearson.

Steven Taylor: Taylor was a mainstay in the Newcastle backline for a number of years and was a breath of fresh air when he performed well in the position that was once occupied by Titus Bramble and Jean Alain Boumsong.

In January 2015, Taylor scored his last Newcastle goal against Burnley in a 3-3 draw, that goal was enough to make him the club's highest scoring defender in the Premier League, overtaking Steve Watson and Robbie Elliott. After Newcastle's 2016 relegation, Taylor, at the age of 30, left to have a brief spell in the MLS with Portland Timbers. He later returned to English football to play for Ipswich and Peterborough. Since July 2018, he has been playing for A-League side, Wellington Phoenix.

Jamaal Lascelles: After failing to get properly noticed by Steve McClaren at Newcastle, Lascelles had to wait patiently for chances in his first proper season at St. James' Park. A month after Benitez's arrival at the club, Newcastle found themselves 2-0 down at half time at Southampton which prompted Lascelles to display his captaincy credentials in front of the new manager.

After Benitez signed a three-year contract at Newcastle following their 2016 relegation, Rafa made Lascelles the captain of the first team. A year later, the great leader made himself one of the Premier League youngest captains. Fast forward to today, and Lascelles is still a mainstay in the defence.

Jack Colback: It was a decent first season on Tyneside for Jack Colback and fans often commended him for his work rate. During a season where the team's work rate came under scrutiny by the fans, Colback was a player who then stood out for the right reasons and prompted John Carver to say that he wishes he had a team full of Colbacks.

Following the arrival of Rafa Benitez at Newcastle, Colback's appearance in the first team became fairly regular but once the club returned to the Premier League, he was sent out on loan back to the Championship. He is now still at Newcastle and stuck in the reserves as he is not registered to play in the Premier League.

Vurnon Anita: Anita may have lacked in quality on the pitch compared to other players but his work rate and ability to play in a range of positions was consistently credited. Although mainly a central midfielder, he spent his last days at the club in right back as cover for DeAndre Yedlin in the Championship. He chose to remain in the Championship following Newcastle's promotion to the Premier League by moving to Leeds United.

He stayed at Elland Road for two years, the last year going to Willem II on loan in his native Holland. After being released at the end of last season, he now plays for Bulgarian side, CSKA Sofia and also makes rap music for his own record label.

Jonjo Shelvey: Like Elliot and Lascelles, Shelvey is one of a handful of players from the club's 2015/16 relegation campaign to still be at the club. Shelvey was something of a mainstay in the team however the 2018/19 season was a hard campaign for Newcastle's highest earner; after getting injured, the club began to win matches and the performances of positional rivals, Isaac Hayden, Mohamed Diame and Sean Longstaff kept Shelvey out of the team for a long while.

However, whilst under the management of Steve Bruce, the midfield maestro has appeared to have found his love for football again.

Ayoze Perez: It took Perez a while to get going under the fellow Spaniard, the goals had dried up until the following campaign. He, however, persevered and remained at the club to help earn promotion back to the Premier League. In the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons, he finished as the club's highest scorer despite struggling to find his goalscoring touch until the second half of both seasons. It was in the latter season where he was part of a formidable partnership with Salomon Rondon to help Newcastle to another season of safety.

His future at the club appeared to have been influenced as to whether Rafa Benitez was going to remain at the club. A week after it was announced that Benitez's contract was not going to get renewed, Perez handed in a transfer request and got his £35million move to Leicester in the midlands. It was a rather strange move from the attacking midfielder; whilst at Newcastle, whenever he picked up a good run of form, he would consistently say that he wanted to move back to Spain's top flight to make a name for himself there. Instead of travelling 800 miles south of Newcastle, he ended up going about 80 miles south instead.

Moussa Sissoko: A player who was able to turn on the style and be unbeatable on his day. The downside, of course, was that it felt like he did not do it often enough and when it was not his day, he gave off the impression that he did not care which understandably hurt the fans.

After being part of the club's 2015/16 relegation campaign from the Premier League, Sissoko followed it up with being one of the best players of the Euro 2016 tournament which earned him a big move to Tottenham shortly before the transfer window closed. He is still at Tottenham and has recently surpassed 500 career appearances, 133 of those were for Newcastle.

Georginio Wijnaldum: This 2-2 draw against Southampton was Wijnaldum's debut for Newcastle and he got off to the best possible start as he opened his goalscoring account with a lovely directed header past Maarten Stekelenburg. Of course, this was Wijnaldum's only season on Tyneside where he finished as the club's top scorer which earned him a move to Liverpool following the Magpies' relegation to the Championship.

Whilst at Liverpool, he has been an important part of the team that Jurgen Klopp has built at Anfield and scored in their remarkable Champions League semi-final against Barcelona to take them to a second consecutive Champions League Final. At the time of writing this, if the 2019/20 season does not end as null and void, he will almost certainly pick up a Premier League winners medal.

Aleksandar Mitrovic: The Serbian international was very much a fan favourite for much of his time at the club and was a key part in Newcastle's impressive finish to the 2015/16 season where they went the last six matches unbeaten which unfortunately was not enough for them to steer clear of relegation.

Mitrovic, amongst other players, remained at the club after the 2016 relegation. However, Mitrovic appeared to put himself in hot water with his new manager. On the final day of the 2015/16 season, Mitrovic was sent off for a needless horror tackle on Tottenham's Kyle Walker which earned him a ban that carried over into the following season. Once he found himself in Rafa's bad books, he found it ever so difficult to get out of them. In January 2018, he moved on loan to Fulham and helped the Cottagers to earn promotion to the Premier League following a four-year absence from the top flight. The loan move was made permanent and he remains at Fulham despite the club falling straight back to the Championship.

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