Benitez says he made it a priority to sign Gayle and Ritchie in the summer

Dwight Gayle celebrates scoring Newcastle United's second goal with Matt Ritchie

Dwight Gayle scored twice as Newcastle United beat Barnsley 2-0.

Dwight Gayle celebrates scoring Newcastle United's second goal with Matt Ritchie

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez has told the Daily Mail that Dwight Gayle and Matt Ritchie were two of his top targets this summer as he oversaw a squad overhaul at St James' Park.

The pair have been in sublime form since signing for the Magpies, with Gayle bagging another two goals as Newcastle moved to the top of the Championship with a 2-0 victory over Barnsley this week, and Benitez has been full of praise for his in-form striker.

Dwight Gayle scores Newcastle United's first goal

"When you have players as clinical as Dwight [Gayle], you will score goals," Benitez told the Daily Mail.

"He is on fire now, he is happy and we're all happy.

"I made it our priority in the summer to get him and Matt Ritchie to the club."

Both Gayle and Ritchie gave up Premier League football to join Benitez at Newcastle, leaving Crystal Palace and Bournemouth respectively.

Dwight Gayle celebrates after he scored Newcastle United's first goal

The fact that both players were willing to step down a division shows how appealing a club Newcastle still is, and how much pulling power Benitez has when trying to persuade players to come to Tyneside.

Newcastle's number nine is currently the top scorer in the Championship with 11 goals, while Ritchie has often been found supplying the ammunition for Gayle, setting up the striker's second goal at Oakwell with a neatly lobbed pass in behind the Barnsley defence.

With the Magpies now top of the league, Benitez will need his two top players to keep on firing if they are to stay top of the tree and return to the Premier League.

Barnsley's Andy Yiadom and Newcastle United's Matt Ritchie in action

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