Some more interesting details Kieth Downie’s big piece on NUFC today, with North-East correspondent Kieth Downie offering an insight into Rafa Benitez’s January transfer frustrations, his relationship with Mike Ashley and what the future may hold for him come the summer (also touching on West Ham’s interest in the Spaniard).
This comes following Sky’s takeover update, with Kieth Downie focusing here on Rafa Benitez’s current position at the club and his future following another frustrating transfer window under Mike Ashley’s ownership.
So, without further ado, here’s what Sky’s North-East correspondent has had to say on Benitez, Ashley and their potential future at the club together following a frustrating January window for the club:
Does Benitez feel let down?
“He’s not happy. He’s got Kenedy now, but he wanted him in the summer, not halfway through the season. Slimani, I understand, was on his list of possible striker signings for January, but he wasn’t his priority. He was fourth or fifth choice.
“I think he is satisfied to have at least got those players in, but he feels it should have been done a lot earlier rather waiting until the end of the window. He could have had them in for three or four games already. And right now, with so few games to go, every game and every point is massive.
“So he is frustrated. I think he just feels the club drag everything out and make it hard. He gave them his list of targets at the start of the month, but they didn’t get them in until deadline day. He had already done the checks and background work on them himself, so why not get them in earlier?”
How is the relationship between Benitez and Ashley?
“Benitez’s day-to-day dealings are with Lee Charnley, the managing director. He’s essentially the middleman between Benitez and Ashley.
“Benitez did have a discussion with Ashley a couple of days before the window closed, when he made it clear that they needed to get some players in, but other than that there is not much relationship to speak of. They have only met face-to-face once or twice.
“Charnley is the go-between and Benitez is at pains to stress that at most news conferences. I think it’s fair to say that Ashley doesn’t have as much of a hands-on role as he did in the past, but when it comes to the big decisions and the money decisions, he obviously has the final say.”
What are the club’s chances of keeping Benitez?
“My prediction is that if the takeover doesn’t happen, Newcastle will struggle to keep hold of Benitez. He has other suitors elsewhere, other clubs who know what he is capable of. He came to Newcastle wanting to improve the team, to get them into the top half of the table and compete for honours.
“He knows he is not going to do that with the current squad, and the only way he can improve that squad is if the takeover happens and there’s someone at the top of the club who is willing to put money into it to progress it.
“Ashley’s lack of investment means Newcastle are flirting with a third relegation in 10 years and he’s relying on the managerial nous of Benitez – who he pays handsomely – to keep them up. This is essentially the same team that won promotion out of the Championship, remember. So it’s a good Championship squad playing in the Premier League.
“It’s also worth noting that Benitez played a big part in bringing Staveley to the table in the first place. He knows that for the club to progress in the way that he wants it to, it needs new ownership. He won’t want to do another year in the Championship, and relegation would mean no takeover from Staveley.”
Are West Ham still interested in him?
“They have always held a torch for Benitez. I imagine that remains the same under those owners. The difficulty there would be that his family are based in the north-west in the Wirral, just outside Liverpool. When he took the Newcastle job, it was not too far away. That was a big factor.
“We’ll see what happens there, but I think the fact that other clubs are interested in Rafa works to his advantage and strengthens his hand.”
It’s in your hands Mike. Either sell up or pull your finger out to keep Benitez at the club.
One thing’s for sure, if we went down and Rafa left in the summer, Mike Ashley’s ‘asset’ will be a shadow of what it once was just months ago.
We don’t deserve this, yet it’s a very possible outcome as there’s only so long you can try and run a club with a world class manager on the cheap.