The situation at Newcastle United is pretty unbearable right now.
Only here we could have a scenario where Rafa Benitez wants to stay, Salomon Rondon wants to sign and several parties want to buy the club, yet there feels a distinct possibility that NONE of these things will come to fruition.
Why? Because each of the three deals are in the hands of Mike Ashley – a man who’s made a habit of making bad decision after bad decision during his 12-year reign at St James’ Park.
The most exciting but unbearable part of this all is that us fans all know we’re on the horns of something great. I’m holding onto the hope that Rafa’s silence and reluctance to sign a new deal is because a takeover IS in the offing, but it’s impossible to be at ease when we’re waiting to see if several game-changing deals go through.
We’re at a huge crossroads as a club. Either a takeover goes through, Rafa stays, we sign our player of the season and start to show some genuine ambition, or we completely crumble.
The fact the latter feels so inevitable without Rafa or a takeover makes it all the more frustrating that Mike Ashley seems quite happy to either let Benitez go if he doesn’t accept this ‘non-negotiable’ take it or leave it ‘final offer’.
We know Ashley doesn’t give a monkeys about Newcastle United – no matter how many times Dennis Wise appears on Sky telling us he does! – but what makes no sense whatsoever is the fact he has so little to gain and so much to lose from a financial perspective should he let Benitez go.
Lose Rafa and fail to sign Rondon and you’re taking a huge risk.
Starting with the manager – no one of any note or pedigree is going to want this job should Rafa walk. It would be the ultimate poisoned chalice. Benitez is adored by the fans, brilliant tactically and superb at signing players on a low budget and getting the best out of them. With this in mind, the only way to create ‘success’ (which would be staying up if Rafa left!) would be to given any new manager money to spend, just like Ashley did with Steve McClaren – and look how that worked out!
Then to Rondon. His future seems insignificant when compared to Rafa’s or a potential takeover, but his 12 goals, 7 assists and outstanding all round play would be badly missed next season, even if Rafa stayed and was forced to sign someone else.
Getting rid of Rafa and Rondon is not a calculated risk, it’s madness – both from a footballing and financial perspective. We could not replace Rafa in terms of his ability as a manager, so Ashley could only make up for that by splashing the cash – and even that wouldn’t guarantee survival (see McClaren and Fulham). As for Rondon, he’s obsessed with ‘sell on value’ and signing players under the age of 26, but there’s far less risk and much more gain in having a PROVEN striker. After all, if he repeats last season and keeps us up again next season, he’s already paid back the £16.5m it would take to sign him permanently.
Ashley’s stance on a takeover is less clear. It’s claimed he wants to sell this time, but can we really believe that after so many have tried and failed to by the club over the past few years?
Either way, if it’s true that the Bin Zayed Group are prepared to give him £350m, he’d be a fool to decline. After all, failure to do that deal will almost certainly see him lose Benitez – and I dread to think what will happen to us (and what the club will be worth as a result) if that happens.