RAFAEL BENITEZ will be doing all he can to sign Kenedy on a permanent basis this summer, but the Newcastle United manager concedes he does not yet know whether Chelsea will be willing to sell the Brazilian.

Kenedy was Newcastle’s match-winner at the weekend, with his first-half double paving the way for a 3-0 win over Southampton that lifted the Magpies five points clear of the relegation zone.

The 22-year-old signed a season-long loan when he moved to Tyneside in the January transfer window, but while Newcastle officials raised the possibility of a clause for a permanent transfer when they discussed the loan deal with their counterparts at Stamford Bridge, their efforts to set up a binding agreement were rebuffed.

Kenedy confirmed a willingness to consider a permanent switch when he conducted his first interview as a Newcastle player shortly after moving to the North-East, and his experiences over the last month-and-a-half are understood to have strengthened his desire to push for a full-time transfer.

Benitez will make securing Kenedy’s signature one of his main summer priorities, although the winger’s future could well be determined by what happens at Stamford Bridge this summer. Antonio Conte’s future at manager is under serious threat, and a new boss may decide he wants to give Kenedy a chance in the first team.

For now, though, the Brazilian is playing a crucial role in Newcastle’s survival battle, and Benitez could not be more pleased with his impact.

“He has energy and pace, but it’s more than that,” said the Magpies manager. “He is a player who is comfortable on the ball. His delivery, his crosses and set pieces - he is somebody who is different and he is a player playing with confidence now.

“His goals will help that. We already had a bit of pace with (Christian) Atsu and (Jacob) Murphy and the ability and work rate of (Matt) Ritchie, but Kenedy is good on the ball, he does not give it away easily and he gives us more control.

“I have no idea if there is a chance we can keep him after the end of the season, so I think at the moment we have to make sure we enjoy him while he is here.”

In the past, Kenedy’s attitude was regarded as one of the key failings holding him back. He was sent home from Chelsea’s pre-season tour of China last summer after posting derogatory comments on social media, and was regarded in some quarters as a player who lacked discipline.

Since moving to Newcastle, though, his record remains unblemished, and Benitez insists he has been a pleasure to work with, both on and off the field.

“He has been fine,” he said. “We have an advantage because, although Spanish and Portuguese are not the same, they have very similar words so this helps me speak to him. Then he can understand, although he also speaks English well. It helps with communication.

“He has slotted in very well and, to be fair, the atmosphere between all the players is very good. He is a young player, he is quiet, but he has a good relationship with all the players.

“There are some players he can talk with a little bit more, he can speak Portuguese with them. His confidence is good, and he has the possibility to express himself here. He wants to play football and is doing that really well.”

Kenedy is not the only January signing to have made a positive impact since moving to Tyneside, as goalkeeper Martin Dubravka has also hit the ground running.

The Slovakian’s loan deal does contain a clause for an automatic transfer in the summer – he is set to make a permanent move from Sparta Prague for €4.5m – and his price tag increasingly looks like a bargain.

He kept his second clean sheet in the space of four games at the weekend, making a fine second-half save from Josh Sims and dominating his penalty area with authoritative calm as he claimed a succession of crosses.

“I don’t want to come across as arrogant, but I just want it to look like I have enough confidence to help the guys,” said Dubravka. “I just do what is natural to me. I don’t want to do anything that doesn’t look like me.  Playing football is what I love and I enjoy it. 

“Many people have said to me that I’ve taken things in my stride, but I’m just trying to focus and enjoy the games. It’s not every day that you’re in the Premier League, especially if you’re from my country.

“Not many of our players play in England, so I’m trying to enjoy every game, especially at home because the fans are amazing. I really love it.”

Dubravka has struck an immediate chord with the defenders playing in front of him, enabling Newcastle to keep successive home clean sheets against Manchester United and Southampton.

Jamaal Lascelles is in the form of his life, and must have a good chance of making it into the England squad that Gareth Southgate will name on Thursday. Florian Lejeune has been rock solid since returning from injury at the start of last month, and full-backs DeAndre Yedlin and Paul Dummett have barely put a foot wrong in the last few games.

“They (the defenders) have played very well in every game that I’ve been here,” said Dubravka. “They are playing with a lot of confidence at the moment, you can see that. In the last ten minutes of the game, they were keeping the ball, passing it from one to the other and as a goalkeeper it’s great when you see your defenders like that.

“They don’t show any stress and that’s important. Sometimes, you’re playing in front of defenders who come under pressure and they don’t always deal with it well. That can make it very stressful for you, but that’s not the case here.

“Our defenders have a lot of confidence and I’m so happy that they’re in front of me. They’ve definitely made it easier for me to come in because they take care of the balls that are coming into the box.”

Newcastle have now embarked on a three-week gap without a game because of a combination of the FA Cup quarter-finals and the forthcoming international break.

They will fly to Spain for a four-day training break on Thursday, and are due to play a friendly against Belgian side Royal Antwerp at the weekend.

They return to action with a home game against Huddersfield Town on March 31, and while a number of their rivals are in action next weekend, they will still be in a strong position when they line up against the Terriers.

“I have seen the table, obviously, but it’s not a big difference for me,” said Benitez. “We knew that we had to win this game (against Southampton), and now we will have Huddersfield in three weeks and it will be another massive game.

“We still have to win two or three games if we want to be sure that we are in the Premier League next year.”