RAFA BENITEZ has dropped a huge hint that he is ready to help Newcastle United onto the next level, after being satisfied with the progress made over the last two years.

The Magpies can take another huge step towards Premier League safety by hitting the 40-point mark the Spaniard wants by defeating Arsenal at St James’ Park tomorrow – with ten points already separating them from the bottom three.

If Newcastle can finish off the survival charge – after losing just one of their last eight matches – Benitez can start to seriously plan for next season when he is desperate to build on what has already started.

Even though there is plenty of talking to be done with the club’s owner Mike Ashley, who is expected to try to sell the club once again in the summer after unsuccessfully offloading it to Amanda Staveley and her partners earlier in the campaign, Benitez seems happy with life on Tyneside.

Yesterday was not the time to talk about the summer transfer window or potential investment, but the former Liverpool manager clearly wants to keep Newcastle heading in an upward direction after a period of relative success under his management.

Benitez said: “The timing is crucial when you go to a club to build something and develop a project. If the team is not winning for some time, it is easier to go there, OK, and change things. If you are winning it is very difficult, and if you have won already, it is very difficult too.

“In this case, here, what you have is all the potential: the fans, the stadium, the fans going to games away and at home and the city behind us.

“We have a very good group of players at the moment in terms of mentality and they have decided to succeed. Everything is fine but we are at the beginning. That is very clear now. We have to keep a lot of things that we have done well for the next season.

“If you are at the beginning you still have plenty of room for improvement. We have great potential. If I decided to stay in the Championship (last season) it’s because I could see fans, city, environment, everything, staff, everybody was really, really delighted to see things going forward.

“You could see everybody pushing and everybody helping you and everybody trying to do their best. I have been in a lot of teams, and in some of them, they have been winning, they thought, ‘OK done’, and they were going clearly downhill. This club, if we do the right things, we have to go uphill.”

If Benitez sensed Newcastle had stood still then he would not be afraid to say so, which has been proven over the last 12 months when he has jostled for improvements to be made to his squad.

He got that in January when he brought in Martin Dubravka, Kenedy and Islam Slimani to help give Newcastle’s fight to stay up and he said: “It is moving up. It can be faster, can be faster, but we have to do things in the right way.”

While Slimani still has a lot to prove before Newcastle decide whether to pursue a permanent deal, it is clear Benitez would already love to have Dubravka and Kenedy tied down to permanent deals.

There is a £4m deal in place for Dubravka, but Newcastle are likely to face competition for Kenedy after it emerged Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Arsenal are among those keen.

Chelsea are in a strong position, given he is under contract, there is no fee agreed with Newcastle for a permanent deal – and his £15m valuation is increasing. Benitez would love to keep him.

Benitez said: “If he has players around him of another level he can help. I am not sure if it is that (interest from likes of Bayern) or the media talking and people throwing names. He has the level to play in a top team, yes. But he is in a top side already!

“I hope we are at advantage because he is here already. He is happy here. He is enjoying his football, and today he was joking with the Spanish players because Portuguese and Spanish can understand each other. He has a couple of friends. Here he is a key player for us. I think always foreign players it is important to be in a good environment.”

Benitez insists transfer discussions are on hold until the 40-point mark has been achieved; meaning that could change as early as tomorrow and then Chelsea could soon be receiving a call.

“Monday? Maybe even Sunday!” joked Benitez. “We were in London (before he signed). We had a meeting there. We tried to sign the player and they said no it is a loan now. Wait. We could not say we wanted the player permanently because they will say no.

“Chelsea I am sure will say wait. Chelsea have a lot of confidence in the lad. When we tried to bring him in the summer we couldn’t. The lad wanted to play, but was in a top side. We pushed and it was impossible. We were ready in January. I was worried because it was taking too long. We had to be sure we could do it.

“I will not put him in this position now by asking him what he wants to do. I have read some of his interviews or whatever. It is just to talk with him and not put him under pressure. If we get to 40 points we can think about this.”