ACHRAF LAZAAR has criticised Rafael Benitez for failing to give him a chance to prove himself during the Spaniard’s reign at St James’ Park.

Lazaar joined Newcastle in a £2.3m move from Italian side Palermo in 2016, but is yet to make a single league start for the club.

He will not be featuring during the current campaign as he left Tyneside to join Serie B side Cosenza ahead of this week’s international transfer deadline, having been left out of Steve Bruce’s 25-man Premier League squad.

He will attempt to kick-start his career in Italy, after conceding he has suffered two wasted years because of Benitez’s reluctance to play him.

“I was disappointed,” said Lazaar, whose last senior appearance in a Newcastle shirt came in 2017’s League Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest. “It was funny because everybody kept asking me, ‘What is going on?’ I came here and worked hard, but I got no minutes – I was sorry about that.

“I lost two years of my career because of it. Rafa Benitez is a big manager – he called me up and asked me to come to Newcastle, but after that, he didn’t play me.”

While Lazaar and Rolando Aarons both moved on after being omitted from Newcastle’s senior squad, Jack Colback opted to sit tight despite having entered the final year of his current contract on Tyneside.

The midfielder was the subject of a number of approaches from Nottingham Forest this summer, but has opted to remain on the Magpies’ books despite having no chance of making a senior appearance until at least January.