RAFAEL BENITEZ has repeated his call for investment now the transfer window has reopened, but an impasse between Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners group and Mike Ashley threatens to scupper the Newcastle manager’s hopes of a sizeable January spending pot.

It had been hoped a deal to sell the Magpies might have been concluded before the end of the year, but discussions remain ongoing with a resolution still some way off.

Staveley’s PCP group are understood to be refusing to increase their £250m offer, while Ashley remains adamant he will not accept less than £300m and will not agree to any clauses that might result in him having to hand back a portion of the money in the event of relegation.

Loading article content

That is proving a major sticking point, and while the current Newcastle owner met Staveley face-to-face in a London curry house last month in an attempt to move things forward, talks have not really progressed since then.

Ashley spent part of last month in the United States, and is due to return to England later this week. However, there are no indications that an agreement with Staveley is close, meaning he will remain in charge of Newcastle’s finances throughout this month’s transfer window.

That could be bad news for Benitez, with the Newcastle manager targeting a new striker, goalkeeper and defender before the end of the month.

A centre-forward is the priority, with Saturday’s stalemate with Brighton meaning the Magpies have now failed to score in five of their last six home games. Benitez had been monitoring Cenk Tosun, but was forced to shelve his interest in the Turkey international when Everton agreed a deal worth around £25m, a sum way out of Newcastle’s price range. The Newcastle hierarchy have registered an interest in Liverpool striker Danny Ings and Leicester forward Islam Slimani, but are yet to agree the terms of a loan deal for either player.

“Obviously, this group can push and carry on, and it will be difficult,” said Benitez. “But if we bring in some players, it could be a lift. Although it doesn’t mean it could be easier. We will see if we can do something in January, and bring some help for this group of players.”

If takeover talks continue to stall, Benitez could increase his spending power by selling one or two players this month. Aleksandar Mitrovic is keen to leave Tyneside to increase his chances of playing for Serbia in this summer’s World Cup finals, and a number of clubs in Germany’s Bundesliga are understood to be interested in the striker. Jonjo Shelvey was linked with a possible move to West Ham United at the weekend, having struggled to hold down a place in Benitez’s preferred starting line-up this season.

Both players would command a transfer fee in excess of £10m, but having seen a succession of targets slip through his grasp last summer, Benitez will not be allowing anyone to leave this month unless he has a cast-iron replacement already in place.

“If we don’t bring in players, it will be very difficult to lose players, even if they are not happy,” said Benitez. “They still have to keep working, and try to give their best for the team.”

Having remained just one point clear of the relegation zone at the weekend, Newcastle return to action this afternoon when they travel to the Britannia Stadium to take on a Stoke City side that shipped five goals at Chelsea on Saturday.

Mark Hughes rested a number of players for the trip to Stamford Bridge, underlining the importance of today’s game between two sides currently occupying positions in the bottom six.

Newcastle’s only victory in their last 12 matches came away from St James’ Park, and having watched his side claim three goals at West Ham shortly before Christmas, Benitez admits it might be easier for his players to prosper on their travels.

The Magpies were unable to break down a resolute Brighton rearguard at the weekend, barely creating a chance against Chris Hughton’s side, but with Stoke needing to get on the front foot in this afternoon’s game, Benitez anticipates more space for his players to exploit on the break.

“Is it easier to play away? Hopefully, I will say yes after Stoke,” he said. “The Premier League is difficult at home and away, but the difference is normally that the team at home has to attack and maybe you can find more spaces.

“As you saw (against Brighton), at home, there are not too much. You have to be precise. You need the right control, the right pass or the right movement. But if you make a couple of mistakes, there is more anxiety and more mistakes, and it becomes more difficult.”

Benitez will have to decide whether to stick with a 4-4-2 formation today, or revert to playing with one man up front, but whoever he selects in attack, the Magpies manager will be demanding a greater degree of attacking precision than was apparent at the weekend.

“We have to improve our decision in the final third to make sure we have more chances,” he said. “There is a bit of anxiety with these players – it is a young team that has to learn. When something is wrong, we are suffering a little bit.

“We will try and take the positives. There are not too many, but we pushed and fought until the end. It is always difficult when the other team are well organised, and then you cannot find the gaps and spaces. It is a question of experience.”