After a worrying ‘exclusive’ from the Telegraph confirmed that Rafa will reject any contract offers and walk in the summer if he is not backed over the next week, the situation has never been clearer for Mike Ashley – back Benitez NOW or watch your asset implode.
Both last year and this year Ashley has had the ‘excuse’ of a potential takeover when it comes to his lack of January spending, but with news over the weekend that he’s now set to ‘accept defeat’ on that front, he no longer has a reason not to spend.
It’s hard to second guess Mike Ashley, but one thing he will be aware of (despite his total lack of care for our club) is that Rafa’s contract is up at the end of the season. Considering the Spaniard has been the glue holding this club together and the tape papering over the cracks for almost three seasons now, you’d think Ashley would be doing his utmost to keep him at the club – not forgetting that any backlash would be like never before if Benitez was forced out.
We know Ashley tries to get by on the cheap and in Rafa he has a manager so good that he can keep a poor squad up thanks to his experience and tactical nous, however there’s only so a long a man’s love for the club and respect for the fans will keep him going.
D-day is approaching for Ashley and today’s story in the Telegraph just emphasises that. Even he must realise how much of a mess we’d be in without Benitez? Who in their right mind would replace Rafa? Why would people renew season tickets? Which players would want to stay? Who on earth would want to buy a club stripped of its biggest asset?
We know he takes Rafa for granted, but it seems his true colours are about to be exposed in the next week.
Forget the fact we are a massively underachieving club with so much untapped potential, with a Champions League manager at the helm and a 52,000 crowd hungry for success, we are now just 2 points clear of the relegation zone. That’s the sad reality of what we’ve become, yet STILL he’s shows no urgency to save our season; not forgetting this was also his most important month when it came to convincing Rafa to stay.
We’ve had little going for us over the last 10 years, but one thing that Benitez gave us was hope. That hope has slowly been drifting away as each month has gone by since promotion was secured, but if Ashley’s reluctance to sanction TWO transfers over the next 9 days seals Rafa’s fate then we have an owner who no longer cares even when we’re heading for disaster.
Forget saving our season, Ashley now has 9 days to save us from losing the best manager we’ve had since the great Sir Bobby Robson.