After news today that Spain have now SACKED coach Julen Lopetegui, Lee Ryder has played down talk that Rafa Benitez could be set to take over – insisting that he is ‘firmly focused on the job in hand at Newcastle United’.
Just last night it was confirmed that Lopetegui had agreed to become Real Madrid manager after this summer’s World Cup – a move that the Spanish FA have no taken kindly to, seeing them sack the 51-year-old just 24 hours before the tournament’s big kick off!
As a result, Benitez has been strongly linked with the vacant post, with the Northern Echo claiming this morning that he was now ‘under serious consideration’ to take over.
Thankfully, the Chronicle’s Lee Ryder has thrown cold water on any claims tipping Rafa to swap Newcastle for Spain, insisting that he is settled in the UK, fully focused on Newcastle and ‘unlikely’ to be interested in swapping club management for an international role:
“Rafa Benitez is firmly focused on the job in hand at Newcastle United – despite fresh links to the Spanish national job today.
“The 58-year-old’s name was pushed into the frame after it was announced Julen Lopetegui will be appointed as new Real Madrid boss ahead of the new domestic season.
“With Lopetegui now sacked after the news yesterday, speculation has increased over his potential replacement.
“But we understand Benitez is unlikely to be interested at this stage and Fernando Hierro and Spanish Under-21 coach Albert Celades are being considered as replacements for Lopetegui.
“While Benitez does have ambitions of managing at international level one day, that particular aim is very much long-term and he is currently content with the day-to-day business of club management.
“Benitez is also settled in the UK with his family located at his Wirral home and he enjoys the English lifestyle, often joking he prefers the cooler weather after spending a lot of his life in Spain.
“Benitez is currently more concerned about getting the assurances he needs to lay the foundations for a bright future for United.”
The Spanish national job will no doubt appeal to him one day, but his meticulous approach and workaholic nature makes me think he’d be keen to stay in club management – a role that allows him to keep busy day-to-day.
This is a relief and does all make sense, but this should come as a reminder to Mike Ashley that Rafa has other offers and is well within his rights to walk away if his ambitions for NUFC continue to be ignored.