So, Neil Lennon has finally left Celtic. No-one knows who will get the job but it really was no surprise to see Rafa’s Benitez’s name alongside Eddie Howe and Frank Lampard included in the early bookie’s favourites.
Rafa’s been strong linked, but his close friend and man in the media Guillem Balague does not think that would happen – and has also commented on the prospect of a potential return to St James’ Park when probed.
Balague believes Rafa only wants a return to the Premier League and is even prepared to sit and wait until the right job comes along.
Here’s what he’s had to say when asked what it would it would take for him to return, also denying Duncan Castles’ claim that Mike Ashley had been in touch:
“Is there a project with Mike Ashley, is there a plan? Is there an intention to actually spend money on the academy, and the facilities and in the squad?”
“If the answer’s no, then you’ve got the answer for Rafa if he was ever approached again. But he hasn’t and it is a no.
“It’s amazing to think that somebody of his calibre doesn’t have a team but it happens.
“He’ll have to wait for his moment.”
So, it seems those weekend rumours were exactly that – a rumour with no substance.
We all hope and pray he returns to Newcastle one day with many wanting it to be sooner rather than later. They say that it could never ever happen under Ashley, but if the Saudi’s takeover then Rafa would be high on their shopping list.
That outcome would seem to suit Rafa and us NUFC fans. After all, look what he did when not backed with ambition and investment. The sky would seem to be the limit for Benitez if the Saudi’s came in and invited him back. I’m not so sure though that they would.
What people seem to forget that if the Saudi’s came in then, assuming money’s no problem, then surely no manager would be outside their reach. Heck, they probably have enough money to tempt Pep away from Man. City if they wanted him.
Therein lies the conundrum. It appears, albeit a little tenuously, that Ashley might not be averse to the return of Rafa if he can’t sell the Club. It though could only happen if a.) we stay in the Premier League and b.) Ashley gave Rafa a cast-iron guarantee that he could have the investment he wanted.
At the moment neither a.) nor b.) seem likely but as they say, never say never. It’s clear that Rafa wants a Premier League job. It’s clear he doesn’t just want any job and it’s clear he wants a job where he’s wanted and backed to the hilt – making any return under Ashley seem nigh on impossible.
If he could get the guarantees he wanted from Newcastle he’d walk back in as a hero and with the full backing of the fans. Oh, how the times they would be a-changing and how high could The Magpies fly under his wings.
Unfortunately, the last time I looked Steve Bruce was still in charge at NUFC with his feet firmly planted under Ashley’s tenure and that doesn’t look like changing any time soon.
Perhaps part of that problem is because Ashley knows his next appointment has to be the right one, both from a PR and performance point of view. If t’s not right then it’s becoming to look more and more like the disaster we’re all dreading. Unless,