Mohamed Diamé has not always been a popular player at St James’ Park. He has often divided opinion. But this season, despite Newcastle United’s poor start, he has been an unquestionably reliable performer.

His contribution is perhaps undervalued. He has started all 12 of Newcastle’s Premier League games this season and has established himself as a key player in Rafa Benítez’s team. And the Spaniard is clearly and admirer of Diamé.

“He’s a key man off the pitch and also on it,” said Benitez in September. “He is the one who can regain the ball and do a job that not too many people want to do. At the same time on his day, he makes the difference when passing the ball.

“He is a team player rather than somebody who will make the difference on his own. And because he makes the difference for the team that is important for us.”

The stats back up Benítez’s high praise. Diamé, defensively, is one of the Premier League’s most effective midfielders. He has made an average of 3.57 tackles per 90 minutes, by far the most of any Newcastle player, and bettered by only four others in the division.

Diame is not just a destroyer, though. He makes an average of 28.55 passes per 90 minutes, 35.5 per cent of which go forward, and has an accuracy rate of 72.8 per cent. He is capable on the ball and an imposing presence off it.

The Senegalese midfielder is not a creator. Nor is he a flamboyant player. But in this Newcastle team, a team that are still very much in a fight to avoid relegation despite some positive results in recent weeks, he is integral.

There is a reason that Benitez speaks so highly of Diamé. Only goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka has played more minutes (1080) than Diamé, who has so far notched up a total of 1056. And for most of those minutes, he has done his job with maximum efficacy and minimal fuss.

Diamé is dependable and effective, and without him in the side, Newcastle might have found results even harder to come by this season.