DAVIDE Santon has been backed for an Italy recall by delighted Newcastle manager Alan Pardew.
The United boss has hailed the progression of Santon from “boy to man” over the last 12 months and believes that he will line up at Anfield as a better defender than Liverpool's Jose Enrique, the man he replaced.
Pardew feels Santon shares the honour of player of the season so far with Hatem Ben Arfa and feels there is more to come from a player who seems to have added defensive rigour to his buccaneering attacking play.
“He is now right up there at the level Enrique was for us. With Hatem, he has been our best player this year and he is getting better,” said Pardew.
“I think he has a chance of the national side if he continues the form he has been showing.”
Interestingly, Pardew has admitted that Santon was hit hard by criticism of his defending last year but has toughened up over the summer.
“Some players are fast burners, some are slower burns,” he said.
“I always thought he would be slower because I think emotionally, he was not particularly an adult footballer. He was a young boy footballer. He had amazing success as a boy footballer but now he is a man and a different player than the one they had at Inter Milan.
“Santon has done better this year in both areas, defence and going forward. Last year, the weaker area was his defending and where he should position himself and how.
“There is always a player who can undo you, You always have to remember that as a full back and you have to accept that.
“I think Davide, when he had a game like that, it affected him but you know, I have seen Ashley Cole have some very difficult games but the next week you have to go back to what you are.
“And I think Davide has coped with that better this year. When he has had a disappointing moment in a game or a disappointing game, it has not affected him.
“Last year, it did affect him and you can’t be perfect – no one can be. Suarez, Gerrard, no one is perfect so that is what he is beginning to accept now.”