During an intriguing chat about Rafa Benitez, close friend and ex-assistant Pako Ayestaran has explained why the NUFC boss ‘couldn’t walk away’ from the club – admitting how much he appreciates being ‘loved and wanted’ by the ‘extraordinary’ Newcastle fans.
This message, from someone who knows the Spaniard well, comes as a reassuring one – especially when talks between the club and Benitez appear to be going nowhere fast.
Lee Charnley, Rafa and his representatives are currently in talks over a potential contract extension, however Benitez has admitted over the last few press conferences that he’s yet to reach any agreement with the club.
When discussing Benitez’s decision to stay following relegation to the Championship in 2016, here’s what former assistant Pako Ayestaran had to say – also suggesting that it is a club he wouldn’t just ‘walk away’ from:
“It’s the feeling of belonging to a club, to a community, and a responsibility to the people in your city,”
“I think Rafa sees similarities between Newcastle and Liverpool, in the town and the fans.
“It’s no surprise to me that he is popular there. I’ve seen his mentality, work ethic, attention to detail – and that brings results.
“I think the big thing for Rafa is that he feels loved and wanted. He couldn’t walk away.
“It’s a club that has Champions League potential. They are one of the traditional big clubs with an extraordinary fanbase and an authentic culture.
“It should be a magnificent club to manage – and it needs to become that again.”
Some great words from Pako Ayestaran – a man who knows him as well as any in the world of football, having been Rafa’s assistant at Osasuna, Extremadura, Tenerife, Valencia and Liverpool.
He clearly views NUFC as a long-term project and has big plans for the club, but his affection and connection with us Newcastle fans is what has kept him here all this time – despite enduring some pretty difficult times.
To make this a success and keep him in the coming years, our ambition as a club much match his, but these comments are reassuring when it comes to Rafa’s immediate future.