Rafa Benítez has warned Mike Ashley that he cannot perform “miracles” each season and will require proof that the club can match his ambitions before he will signing a new contract – stating he wants to win titles on Tyneside, not settle for a top-half finish.
The gaffer stated last Friday that he would like to speak to the NUFC board ‘as soon as possible’ over his future at the club, and he has not held back once again here, making is crystal clear to Mike Ashley that he will not hang about if his level of ambition cannot be matched.
Here’s what he had to say on the matter, beginning by discussing the tools he needs to bring success back to Tyneside – suggesting he cannot do ‘miracles’ each year if he isn’t given the right backing:
“I think this season, for these players, the staff, the club, the fans, it has been a fantastic achievement. Brighton, Huddersfield, they have also done a fantastic job, but it’s different because everyone was expecting more of Newcastle United because of the fans, the stadium etcetera,”
“But it was not the case, we were spending less than them. They were expecting us to beat Manchester City and Liverpool, because we have done in the past. No-one expected that of Brighton. It was more difficult for us.
“What I don’t want next year, if we finish in the top 10, is for people to say, ‘Okay, fine, now you must finish in the top six’. To do that you must have a real project with a realistic business plan and with an idea of the target and the tools to achieve that target.”
“I cannot do miracles every year so then you have to have the tools to be sure that you can do your job. I did it at Napoli, Inter or any team that we were around. (At) Valencia, when we had the tools and we had the support, we could win. That’s it.”
Rafa then hinted that he must also be backed to sign ‘experienced players’, something Mike Ashley has often been reluctant to do due to re-sale value:
“I want to win, It’s true, I am a young manager who wants to win. But at the same time, I spend a lot of time coaching players and improving them so I do not have any problem with young players because they will grow and become much better players. But you need to win.
“So you need players with experience. When we had problems in the Championship, or in the Premier League with this squad, we needed experience. So it is not just ‘Oh, the manager is calm, he has vast experience”’ because you don’t play.
“Players with experience can replicate that on the pitch and give confidence to those around them. And then you will be a better, more competitive team and as well you can try and win trophies. I am not saying you have to win the league, because maybe you will need a lot of times to do that to go there.
“But to compete for the League Cup, the FA Cup (you need) to have a team that you can change, rotate players and have a good eleven. That’s it.”
With a win today meaning we would leapfrog a big spending Everton in the league, Benitez was then asked if it would be a big achievement to finish above the Blues:
“Yes it would be, but still if we had finished above 17th this season then it would have been a success,”
“If we finish 12th, or 11th, or 10th, or ninth – then much better. But my objective is not to finish ninth; it is to win, to win titles and cups, or something like that.
“That is what I want to do. I was talking about a team who in the middle of the Spanish league and everyone was saying that they have been having a fantastic season; they finished 10th, 14th, eighth. That doesn’t change too much for me.
“To be in the top four, to win trophies, to win the league, or whatever, that is what I want to do. It’s not just survival or mid-table.
“Obviously, I know the reality, when you finish ninth or eighth or 10th is better than if you finish 15th, but still what I want is to be sure that we can fight for trophies.”
“I think that when we came here. We couldn’t save the team but to win the Championship, to change the mood and to change a lot of players, I think was a bigger step forward.
“And to stay in the Premier League is an even bigger step forward towards reaching the potential of this massive club.
“We are going in the right direction, then we have to carry on in the same direction so cannot make the mistakes made in the past. We have to see what happens.
“We have to change things if we want to improve. We did a lot of things right but can we improve? Yes, a lot of things. They know my idea. When I see Lee we talk about what we have to do in a different way, so they know already where we are.”
A brilliantly bold interview from Rafa, but another crystal clear message to take from it – back me or see the back of me.
Surely Ashley isn’t stupid enough to huff his biggest asset at NUFC? Or is he?