It’s easy to forget Kenedy was once considered one of the most exciting attacking talents in Brazil.
During his time at Rio de Janeiro based side Fluminense, he would regularly play in a number of advanced positions, operating on either wing or as a striker.
He also occupied forward roles during his appearances for Brazil’s youth sides. He was one of the top scorers in the 2013 South American Under-17 Championships, notching up six goals as Brazil finished third in the competition with a squad which also included Grêmio’s Barcelona-bound midfielder Arthur.
South American football expert Tim Vickery went as far as describing him as “a striker with a howitzer left foot that brings back memories of a young Adriano.”
So it was something of a surprise to see him operating at left wing-back, albeit an attacking one, during his time at Chelsea.
There was the impression he was used in the position simply because the club had no real backup to Marcos Alonso, and Kenedy’s left-footedness and reasonable engine meant he was the man chosen to fill in. He was used there simply because they had no one else.
Defensive responsibility is a requirement of every player in a Benítez side, and his time playing left back for Chelsea will have helped him in this regard, but with another player behind him he is freer to get forward, and this is paying dividends for both the player and his new club.
Despite having played just six games for the north-east side, he’s already made a big impact. His per 90 stats show he could become one of their most productive players, and he already sits third in the team when it comes to expected goals and expected goals assisted combined (0.29).
His defensive strength is also on show among the numbers he’s put up since his move, and he has made an average of one interception and over two tackles per 90 so far.
Though his short time at the club gives us a relatively small sample size, these numbers are encouraging and his displays to date suggest these are more likely to be improved upon than they are to decline.
His manager agrees, and Benítez has spoken highly of the player who, unfortunately, doesn’t have an option to buy clause in his loan contract.
When asked what his new man has brought to the side, Benítez said: “It’s more than his energy and pace, he is a player who is comfortable on the ball. His delivery, his crosses and set pieces — he is somebody who is different and he is a player playing with confidence now.
“His goals will help that. We already had a bit of pace with Atsu and Murphy, and the ability and workrate of [Matt] Ritchie, but Kenedy is good on the ball, he does not give it away easily and he gives us more control.”
As a result of these contributions Newcastle have shown an interest in taking the 22-year-old on a permanent deal.
Rumours suggest Chelsea have have put a price tag of around £15million price tag on their young Brazilian, who appears open to the idea of remaining on Tyneside when his loan spell expires.
“This new stage with Newcastle’s shirt makes me very happy,” Kenedy told UOL. “It’s very difficult for a player to stay a long time without playing, even more to get back in the rhythm of the Premier League.
“If it’s good for everyone, it would be a pleasure to continue wearing the shirt of this great team.”
Newcastle’s club record purchase was Michael Owen at £16million and even if Kenedy cost £20million, it could be a bargain once the Magpies take a step back and look at the prices other players are going for.
“I have no idea if there’s a chance we can keep him after the end of the season,” said Benítez.
“I think, at the moment, we have to make sure we enjoy him while he’s here. Still, he is a young player who’s improving, but he has the potential to grow, to be a much better player.”
The Spaniard’s comment about enjoying the player while they can suggests there could be problems securing the funds to pay for the player, even if he would obviously improve the team.
He could be the next part of the manager’s ongoing battle with those above him at the club as his ambition is rarely matched by those upstairs.
Newcastle are currently still in transition from Championship club to a Premier League one, and there is always the risk that they could drop back down.
Benítez wants to build a team of Premier League players rather than continuing to hang on in the division with a squad which is more suited to the league below.
Signing Kenedy would be a step towards assembling a squad capable of establishing the club once again in the top flight, and eventually challenging for the European spots.
If the young Brazilian can, as Benítez predicts, grow into a much better player than he already is, then the outlay spent this summer on him could turn out to be a wise investment for a club who should be looking up rather than simply avoiding the drop.