JAMAAL LASCELLES admits Rafael Benitez has been a huge factor in Newcastle United’s successful survival campaign, and has urged the Magpies hierarchy to do all they can to keep the Spaniard at St James’ Park.

Newcastle’s mathematical safety was guaranteed on Sunday when Cardiff City lost to Liverpool, but while the Magpies know what league they will be playing in next season, huge question marks remain over the identity of their manager beyond the end of next month.

Benitez’s contract is due to expire on June 30, and while he would like to extend his reign beyond the summer, he is still awaiting a formal response from Lee Charnley and Mike Ashley after submitting a series of requests at the start of the month.

Benitez wants assurances about his financial firepower for the next few seasons and is demanding a cast-iron guarantee that he will not be prevented from pursuing his leading targets. Charnley’s comments in relation to last week’s financial accounts were hardly reassuring on either of those fronts, and there are fears Benitez could walk away after Newcastle have played their final game at Fulham.

Lascelles thinks that would be a disaster, and has urged those above him to do everything in their power to meet Benitez’s demands.

“Since he’s (Benitez) been here, we’ve been doing really well,” said Lascelles, who was handed the captain’s armband in Benitez’s first six months on Tyneside. “Even in the season we got relegated, he came in and we started winning games.

“In the Championship season, we came first, tenth (in the Premier League) last year and now we are finishing strong this year. Of course as players we want him here, but we are not in control of whatever is going on. But, hopefully he gets tied down.

“Does it worry me he might leave? Yes, of course it does. There aren’t many managers like him. Of course as players, we want him here, and Newcastle should do everything they can to keep him.”

Benitez and Lascelles have formed an especially close relationship in the last three years, with Newcastle’s manager clearly valuing his captain’s leadership qualities. In return, Lascelles has developed into Benitez’s lieutenant on the field, and it would be damaging for all concerned if the partnership was to break up this summer.

“As players, when you get a manager in for the first couple of days and the first week, you want to impress him so much,” said Lascelles. “But with Rafa, that has stayed for the whole time he has been here

“Even with me, I know him very well now, we’ve been working together for a long time, but I still want to impress him every single session, every single day. I just want to keep impressing him. I guess when he’s got all that respect off all the players, it brings a hard-working team and a hard-working team is tough to beat.

“He is special. Even at the start of the season, when everyone is panicking and we’ve got all those big teams to play and we find ourselves down in the bottom three, he stays so calm. He knows his players, he trusts his own ability to get the best out of his players and that’s such an important thing for a manager to have.”

The bond between manager and captain was obvious in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s 3-1 win over Southampton, with Benitez striding on to the pitch at the final whistle to put his arm around Lascelles and engage in some deep conversation.

Was Benitez praising his skipper to the hilt? Not exactly. He was more interested in discussing the failings that led to Southampton’s goal, a perfectionist streak that Lascelles feels is an integral part of Benitez’s managerial excellence.

“He was talking about Southampton’s goal,” explained Lascelles. “He’s a perfectionist. He will praise you when it’s due. But if it’s not 100 per cent he will tell you. It’s learning. That’s why I’ve come on leaps and bounds.

“He is not going to praise you if you don’t keep a clean sheet. He’s going to think about the chances they’ve had and what you could have done to stop it and I think that’s excellent from him.

“I should have done better with that goal, it shouldn’t have even been a cross. So I will be sat down in his office and he will be grilling me about that like we lost the game. But that’s him for you, and as players we all appreciate that.”

As well as retaining Benitez, Lascelles is also desperately hoping Newcastle hold on to Ayoze Perez this summer, with some of the biggest clubs in Spain beginning to circle around Saturday’s hat-trick hero.

“Recently, he has been unreal, in training and games,” said Lascelles. “He’s not the fastest of players, but he just skips by players. I don’t know what it is, his balance or his dribbling. He works so hard.

“He is up there with the most interceptions as well, most tackles. He does do a lot of the dirty work as well as scoring goals. He has been a key player for us this season. He is a massive player for us, that was his tenth Premier League goal, and it would be nice to keep him.”