RAFAEL BENITEZ has played down the significance of Jamaal Lascelles’ training-ground bust-up with Mo Diame, and revealed the duo have agreed to buy lunch for the rest of the Newcastle United squad to make up for their misdemeanour.

Lascelles and Diame came to blows on the training ground last week, with Jonjo Shelvey fracturing his hand as he stepped between the pair to break up the altercation.

Benitez insists the incident has been over-blown, and claims to have witnessed much worse scenes on the training ground at a number of his former clubs.

And rather than issue the pair with a fine, the Newcastle boss has revealed Diame came up with the idea of paying for a lunch-time bonding session to help atone for their behaviour.

Benitez said: “It was a surprise when it happened. It was part of a small training game and there was a fight. Jonjo was in the middle so he was making peace and everything was fine.

“After the incident they apologised to each other. Maybe they will buy lunch for everyone. It was Mo’s idea to take the team out to lunch, but I don’t know when or how they will do it.

“I have seen worse than that over the years. When you are in the middle of a game, and you are losing or winning, players can react in different ways. It is nothing, there is lots worse than that.

“I told Jamaal that he has to keep pushing in the right way, and Mo is normally training in the right way too. Later on they were fine, and they have been training fine without anything special since.”

Both of the players are available for Sunday’s game at Southampton, and Shelvey has been passed fit too, although he is expected to play at St Mary’s with the aid of a protective cast.

He partnered Mikel Merino at the heart of midfield in the 1-1 draw with Liverpool that preceded the international break, and Merino’s loan deal from Borussia Dortmund was converted into a permanent transfer earlier today.

Having already shelled out £2.5m in a loan fee, Newcastle are understood to have paid an additional £6.5m to complete a permanent transfer, with Merino having signed a five-year deal at St James’ Park.

Benitez said: “We’re really pleased. He is a good player, a good professional and he has been working hard from the first day. The fans love him and there are a lot of positives. We had Jamaal Lascelles signing a new contract too, so there has been a lot of good news and that is good for the club.

“It was really (already) done. Everyone was wondering what was going on, but it was easy for us. He had to play a number of games, and it was clear he would do it and it would be done. We are very happy with that.

“When I decided to monitor him and then sign him, we were talking about a player with potential that we knew from the Under-21s with Spain and with Osasuna. It wasn’t a risk because we knew about his mentality and quality.

“His father was a football player and I knew him, so there were a lot of positives. It was not a risk. People are wondering what will happen in the future, but in the meantime we have to enjoy the player.”