Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez is not worried by speculation linking captain Jamaal Lascelles with a move to Premier League champions Chelsea and believes his prized defender knows that the best place for his development is at St James' Park.

Lascelles, arguably Newcastle's most influential player, was linked with a move to Antonio Conte's side [The Evening Standard] as they look to freshen up their defensive options and find replacements for the ageing pair of Gary Cahill and David Luiz, who has barely featured for the Blues this season.

Chelsea were said to be considering a summer move for the former Nottingham Forest star, who recently penned a new six-year contract worth around £50,000-a-week with Newcastle. The lengthy new deal has proven to be source of relief for manager Benitez, who believes the 24-year-old does not need to rush to join a bigger club.

"He [Lascelles] has just signed a new contract this year so we don't have any problems," Benitez told the Chronicle. "He is clever enough to understand that the best way for him to improve is to stay here and do well in every single training session and each game.

"If he can get a little bit better every week he will have plenty of time to go to a top side if he wants that, or maybe improve Newcastle United as much as we can to make sure that we are a top side and can compete against these teams."

Many managers would be left frustrated by word over a club's interest in one of their top performers, but Benitez, who has recently overseen a seven-match unbeaten run, believes talk of a move to Chelsea for Lascelles can be taken as a positive.

The former Liverpool boss, who led Chelsea to Europa League glory in 2013, clearly values Lascelles having made him captain very early on in his tenure at St James' Park and is hoping to see him improve further and help the Magpies ease lingering relegation fears, which could be quietened further with a win over Liverpool on Saturday (3 March)

"It's always good when you see people talking about your players because it means they are doing well. Now it's a challenge for him to make sure Newcastle United are doing well and he's part of it," Benitez said.

"He is part of a group of players that can possibly be more important in the future."

Jamaal Lascelles
Benitez made Lascelles captain early on in his reign at Newcastle Getty Images