RAFAEL BENITEZ insists he does not have a problem with Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley after a week when it emerged the club’s billionaire owner is keen to tie him down to a new deal.

Benitez does not see any need to rush into a new contract with two years remaining on his existing terms, even though he is open to the idea of holding discussions about it in the near future.

And that will be music to the ears of Newcastle supporters aware that he was disgruntled by a failure to bring in the number of ‘quality’ signings he had hoped for before the transfer window closed on August 31.

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The fact West Ham are known to have him under consideration as a potential successor to Slaven Bilic, who has endured a difficult start to the season, has also raised doubts about his future in recent weeks.

Those led to suggestions this week that Ashley is ready to invite Benitez out for dinner and discuss the future, and possibly extending the contract he has which is due to run out at the end of the 2018-19 season.

Benitez, whose side face his old club Liverpool at St James’ Park tomorrow, said: “We're not talking about that (contract). My focus now is the next game. That's it.”

He added: "I don't think we have to lose energy with that (the long term). It doesn't change anything. Why do we have to create that debate about something which doesn't have an influence on the next game or the next six months? I think it's important to continue doing our jobs. I have a contract. It's not an issue now, for me.

“We have had some conversations internally. We'll see what we do with them. But it's not a big issue. I don't have a problem with Mike.

"The question is where we are, where we want to be and what we have to do to be there.

"It (the contract) is not an issue. It's not something that will change my approach, or that I will be more comfortable if I sign a 20-year contract. It doesn't change my approach for the next game.”

Despite the frustrations he felt in August over a lack of signings, Benitez has still managed to lead Newcastle to three wins in a row before last Sunday’s defeat at Brighton.

The improved form, leading to them sitting mid-table in the Premier League, led to him being asked if targets are already in place for the January transfer window.

He said: “Yes, we are already working on that. Like the majority of the teams, we are monitoring players and that is the main thing.

“There will be a time, maybe next month, maybe next week, maybe in two months, when we will have another conversation and we will talk about that.

“It's not an issue. At the moment, the relationship is fine because we don't need to talk every day on the phone or we don't need to discuss about what will happen in January.

“Now we are working, preparing everything and any time, we will have a conversation, a dinner or something, where we will talk about the future.”

Newcastle are only two points behind fifth-placed Liverpool after five matches and Benitez will embrace the occasion tomorrow when he faces a club where he is still worshipped. He won numerous honours during his time at Anfield including the Champions League in 2005.

But has Benitez ever been close to returning to Liverpool – and would he consider it again in the future?

He said: "The job? It is quite difficult because I have been in Italy, or Madrid, or moving around. It hasn't come at the right time. If they have problems and you are unavailable, sometimes you are available and they are doing well.

"I didn't have too many chances to go back. It is football so you never know. I am getting older but for a manager, I am still a young manager, so we'll see what happens."

He added: "I don't want to say (I will go back). They were asking me in Spain when they were talking about the national team one day. I said: 'Oh yeah.' It seems like you are pushing for it one day, but that is not the case.

"I am happy here, I want to do well here and I wish Jurgen Klopp a lot of success. It is all in the future, but I don't want any: 'Rafa wants to go back.' Nothing like that because I am happy here and I want to do well here."