RAFAEL BENITEZ has dismissed suggestions his relationship with Newcastle United is a ‘marriage of convenience’, but warned the club “has to do things in a different way” if he is to sign a new long-term contract.

Benitez’s former Liverpool talisman, Jamie Carragher, caused quite a stir yesterday when he penned a newspaper column claiming the Spaniard was counting down the remaining days of his current deal and predicting he would leave when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Contract talks broke down earlier this year, and while both Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley have indicated they would like Benitez to stay, there is no sign of a new round of discussions taking place.

Carragher’s comments are significant, as the Sky Sports pundit remains close to his former manager, but Benitez insists he has always been 100 per cent committed to his role on Tyneside.

“I’m really pleased here,” said the Newcastle boss, who will head to Crystal Palace this afternoon hoping to engineer a first win of the season. “I like the city. I like the atmosphere and the fans and everything I have said before. The potential of the club is massive.”

Nevertheless, Benitez remains adamant he will not be signing a new deal until he is convinced of Ashley’s long-term ambitions for Newcastle, and has admitted it will require fundamental changes for him to commit his own future to the club.

As well as demanding cast-iron assurances about the level of investment in future transfer windows, starting with this January, Benitez also wants a major overhaul of the club’s training ground and academy set-up.

Thus far, his pleas have fallen on deaf ears, and if that does not change in the next few months, it is looking increasingly likely that he will walk away at the end of the current campaign.

“We have to go to January and see what we do,” said Benitez. “How can we do things? And after that, it will be easier to know where we are.

“My view was very clear at the beginning when I decided to stay - potential, project, to compete in the top ten. That is not the case now. So then we have to review things.

“It’s obvious for everyone that we have to do things in another way. But at the same time, it’s very clear for me that we have to concentrate on getting results and staying in the Premier League.

“Ask any fan in the street in Newcastle, and they will know what the situation is. If we can improve something in terms of what we want to do in the future, then fine. But we have to improve on the pitch, that’s it.”

Benitez is confident the ongoing uncertainty about his future is not proving a distraction, although he accepts there is a need for players, staff and supporters to stick together in what is proving an increasingly testing period.

Newcastle head into this afternoon’s game in 19th position in the table, although Benitez has repeated his assertion that he always knew this season would be difficult.

“You would like to have the ideal situation – I will not talk too much about ‘the ideal situation’ – you would like to have that, but you don’t have that,” he said. “So you know what you have to do? Just try to enjoy it as much as you can.

“What does that mean? To do what we have to do to stay in the Premier League because for our fans, for the city, for the club, for everyone, it’s crucial because if you go down, it’s not easy to go up again.”