Rafa Benitez has admitted that he was offered ‘a chance’ to take the Spanish national job for this summer’s World Cup, with the Times also confirming that he’s since rejected their offer to take over on a full-time basis – choosing to stay at NUFC instead.
As many of you will know, former manager Julen Lopetegui was suffered a shock sacking just days before the tournament kicked off in Russia, leaving Spain searching for a new boss two days before their opening game.
Fernando Hierro stepped in, but it sounds like it could have easily been Rafa who took charge instead.
Here’s what he he’s had to say when asked if Spain had come in for him:
‘There was a chance. But still I am here and I am happy to be here.’
Quite incredibly, the Times also reveals that Newcastle were open to the idea of Benitez spending the summer with Spain (to take the job on a temporary basis), however it’s emerged that they then offered him the role on a full-time deal after the World Cup – only for Benitez to reject their advances once again in favour of giving NUFC his full focus.
Here’s a snippet from George Caulkin’s piece, explaining how he was offered the chance to take charge of the national side on two occasions over the summer:
Rafa Benítez was offered the chance to take charge of Spain for the World Cup finals after the dramatic dismissal of Julen Lopetegui two days before the country’s opening match in Russia.
Representatives of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) made contact with Benítez after Lopetegui’s sacking and talks progressed far enough for Newcastle United to give outline approval for their manager to coach his country for the duration of the tournament.
While Fernando Hierro, Spain’s sporting director, was immediately installed as Lopetegui’s successor, The Times understands there was a simultaneous approach to Newcastle before the group B fixture against Portugal. Lopetegui was sacked when he was named Real Madrid’s new head coach without informing the RFEF.
Benítez, who rejected a separate request to manage Spain full-time after the World Cup, considered the prospect of leading his nation in Russia. Asked about it at Newcastle’s training camp in Dublin yesterday, the 58-year-old would only say: “There was maybe a chance, but still I am here and I am happy to be here.”
Benítez discussed the World Cup opportunity with Lee Charnley, Newcastle’s managing director, who regarded it as beneficial to the club’s reputation and was content for the manager to combine duties for the summer.
As a winner of La Liga with Valencia, the Champions League and FA Cup with Liverpool and the Europa League with Chelsea, as well as other trophies, Benítez was an obvious candidate for the Spain job, which has since been filled by Luis Enrique, the former Barcelona coach. Yet he also harboured concerns about a riven dressing room and his own chequered relationship with the Spanish media after his testing spell at Real Madrid. With little time to conclude a deal, negotiations faltered.
Coaching Spain may be a long-term ambition for Benítez but, for now, he prefers the day-to-day involvement of club football. “I still feel young so I have plenty of time to do that,” he said.
Thankfully, Luis Enrique has been appointed on a two-year deal following their surprise last 16 exit at the hands of Russia, meaning they are no longer a threat – however this just shows how things could have been very different.
To think he could’ve lead out his country in a World Cup, yet here he is saying just how happy he is to be here – all whilst being messed about on a daily basis by a certain Mike Ashley.
What a bloke. We’re so lucky to have him.