RAFAEL BENITEZ is adamant that Newcastle United want to keep Jamaal Lascelles – no matter what West Ham United bid for the centre-half in the remainder of the transfer window.

Newcastle rejected West Ham’s initial offer for Lascelles on Tuesday, with the Hammers having been willing to pay an initial fee of £20m, which could have risen to £25m if a series of clauses were met.

The West Ham hierarchy are set to make a second approach in the next few days, and Everton are also poised to firm up their own interest in the Newcastle skipper.

Mike Ashley has always argued that every player has their price, and while Lascelles has shown no desire to leave Tyneside, the speculation levels are set to increase ahead of the transfer deadline on August 9.

However, Benitez insists he does not want to lose Lascelles this summer, having handed the centre-half the captain’s armband in the wake of Newcastle’s relegation two summers ago.

“We don’t want to sell him,” said the Newcastle boss, who accompanied his first-team squad to Ireland yesterday ahead of a week-long training camp. “He was a key player for us last year and he has to be this year and for a long time to come in the future.

“The reality is that we don’t want to sell Jamaal. He is a key player for us and leader. We are happy with him.”

Benitez is willing to sell both Aleksandar Mitrovic and Chancel Mbemba this summer, but despite considerable interest, Newcastle are yet to receive an acceptable offer for either player.

Fulham are expected to lodge a formal offer for Mitrovic once he returns from a post-World Cup break, while Porto remain interested in Mbemba, who has been told not to return to training.

Newcastle have made three signings of their own this summer, with Brazilian winger Kenedy having joined Martin Dubravka and Ki Sung-yeung on the list of incomings.

Kenedy has signed a season-long loan from Chelsea, having impressed in the second half of last season.

“It is great news for us,” said Benitez. “He is a player with quality. You talk about Brazilian players, they have quality.

“He is a nice lad and working hard for the team. So I think it is quite positive for the lads in the dressing room.”