RAFAEL BENITEZ has ruled out a summer return to Napoli, with Newcastle United skipper Jamaal Lascelles urging Mike Ashley to do ‘whatever it takes’ to keep the Magpies manager on Tyneside.

Benitez’s representatives are due to hold further talks with Lee Charnley later this week in an attempt to resolve the contractual impasse that has led to increased speculation about the Spaniard’s future.

Mike Ashley issued a statement on Sunday night pledging to provide Benitez with “every penny generated by the club”, but as he prepares to enter the final year of his current deal, the Newcastle boss wants firm guarantees about what that will amount to this summer.

Just as significantly, he is seeking clarity about the parameters he will have to work within when attempting to make signings and demanding a much greater degree of freedom than he was afforded last summer, when Charnley failed to land a number of his leading targets.

Ideally, Benitez would like to sign a new deal and remain at St James’, but having guided Newcastle into the top half of the table on their first season back in the Premier League after winning promotion, he does not want to spend the next 12 months involved in another battle to avoid relegation.

Having helped Newcastle bank more than £120m thanks to their top-half finish at the weekend, Benitez will be hoping for more than £60m to spend on summer signings, and will also expect to keep any funds that are generated from the potential sale of the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic, Jack Colback, Matz Sels and Mikel Merino.

If he does not feel he is receiving adequate support, he will be open to alternative offers, with West Ham United, Leicester City and Everton all understood to be considering his candidature as they ponder a change of boss.

Napoli had also been linked with a possible move for the 58-year-old, having previously employed him for two seasons between 2013-15, but Benitez used an interview with an Italian radio station yesterday to categorically rule out a return to Serie A.

“My future? I’ve heard so much talk, but I haven’t spoken to (Napoli chairman) Aurelio de Laurentiis,” said Benitez, speaking on CalcioNapoli 24. “I have a contract with Newcastle – I’m talking to them about my renewal.

“They made me some offers to stay here for a few more years, plus I have to manage my family. When I decided to go to Newcastle and stay there, even in the Championship, it was also because of my family. My priority is to stay in England – I’m only talking to Newcastle.”

Benitez has been playing an astute political game for most of his time on Tyneside, trying to squeeze whatever he can out of Ashley as he looks to guide Newcastle back towards the upper echelons of the Premier League.

He is adored by the St James’ Park crowd, as evidenced by the repeated chants aimed in his direction during Sunday’s 3-0 win over Chelsea, and also boasts the staunch support of his players, most of whom have improved markedly from working under him.

Lascelles is one such player, and having formed a close bond with Benitez in the last two seasons, the skipper is urging Ashley to do whatever it takes to keep him in his current role.

“I can’t emphasise enough how important he is,” said Lascelles. “If I was the owner, I'd do anything I can to keep him happy and make sure he stays.

“Since he's been here, everything has been positive - promotion and then the first season in the Premier League, we've survived comfortably.

“He's won titles and cups at every level and in different countries, so you just hope we can keep him. We have to keep him.”

Lascelles has been one of the most consistent central defenders in the whole of the Premier League this season, and while he is expected to miss out when Gareth Southgate names his England squad for this summer’s World Cup tomorrow, statistics released by Oopta yesterday showed he was fifth most successful defender in the top-flight when it came to winning head-to-head battles.

Only Virgil van Dijk, Kurt Zouma, Jan Vertonghen and James Tarkowksi boasted a better ratio, and the 24-year-old readily admits he has improved out of all recognition thanks to working under Benitez.

“On the pitch, I’ve improved a lot,” said Lascelles. “Off the pitch, I've improved as captain, too. It’s all down to him. I have a lot of one-on-ones with him, his door is always open, and that helps so much.

“The players appreciate him and the time he gives us. Everything he says - we hang on every word he says - and then we back it up with what we do out on the pitch. You can see it every game.

“We don't question anything he says, because he’s Rafa Benitez. He’s the man, he's the boss, he's the one with all the experience. He's huge for us.”