There were several heroes for Newcastle United during their unstoppable run into the top-half of the final Premier League table, but one certainly stood out more than most.
After scoring just two goals in the first 30 games of the season, Ayoze Perez went on to bag six goals in the final eight games to become the club’s top scorer for the season and lead them to a tenth-place finish.
A final-day double against Chelsea was probably the highlight, although the Spaniard also scored match-winning goals against Arsenal, Leicester and Huddersfield during his stunning run of form.
The 24-year-old finished the season with ten goals in all competitions, which is his highest-ever tally for the club while competing in the Premier League.
It was a remarkable revival for a man who looked totally out of favour under Benitez during the middle part of the season, and has surely put him in good stead ahead of the summer window.
However, despite this form, Perez must be replaced by Benitez in the coming weeks.
If Newcastle want to be competing for a spot in Europe, which Benitez has clearly stated is the club’s aim next season, then the club will need quality running throughout the starting XI.
Perez has shown himself to be a handful while on form, but his lack of consistency is a massive issue that has plagued him throughout his time in England.
Newcastle will need a front four that guarantees goals and assists every week, and Perez unfortunately is not a player who offers that.
This is not to say that Perez should be sold on this summer, as the Spaniard is undoubtedly a useful squad player, but he must be replaced in the starting XI.
If the 24-year-old still a starter for the Magpies come opening day next season, then Benitez will not have been given the right backing in the market this summer.
His place in the starting XI will be a barometer by which the club’s success in achieving their aims can be measured, and he must be replaced in the coming months.