RAFA BENITEZ is unlikely to rush into signing a new deal at Newcastle United, even if he is promised a sizeable transfer budget for January.

Benitez has been told that Mike Ashley, the club’s unpopular owner, wants to keep him in charge at St James’ Park beyond his current contract.

The Newcastle manager’s existing deal is due to expire at the end of the season and he has indicated in previous weeks that he will not be signing anything until he is convinced of the ambition of the boardroom.

Just last week it was claimed Ashley was prepared to lower his asking price for Newcastle to around the £300m mark in a bid to achieve a sale.

But Ashley, yet to comment on the situation, will also know that having Benitez tied down to a longer-term deal will increase its attractiveness to potential buyers.

Ashley was at Selhurst Park last Saturday to see Newcastle record a goalless draw at Crystal Palace and he is understood to have instructed managing director Lee Charnley to find out what it would take for the Spaniard to sign new terms.

Benitez and Charnley are expected to have talks this week, centred on an early plan for the January window and how much is likely to be available for transfers.

There is an acceptance that Newcastle’s squad is short of the sort of quality required to help them kick on from last season’s tenth place finish. It is just hoped that by the time the New Year has come around that they will not be in deep relegation trouble.

Last January, Benitez was allowed to sign Martin Dubravka and Kenedy on loans for the rest of the season and those give Newcastle the lift to climb up to mid-table. They also signed Islam Slimani from Leicester but that didn’t have the desired effect.

Newcastle will be looking for a similar lift from incoming deal in the second half of the season and Benitez already knows there is a £20m profit after a largely low-key summer transfer window on Tyneside.

The Newcastle boss is not happy to be in charge of a team happy to make up the numbers in the top-flight, he wants progress to be made during his time at the helm and wants the backing from above.

Benitez has made no secret of his wish to have the financial muscle to be able to compete and improve a squad year-on-year and that will be a big factor in him deciding whether to stay on. He is happy at Newcastle but will want proof that he has the support from Ashley.

The former Liverpool manager is keen to make Newcastle a force again and only yesterday the club’s fans were incensed by a TalkSport show where ex-Reds midfielder Danny Murphy insisted they are not a big club.

Murphy was in agreement with presenter Ian (Moose) Abrahams while Jim White disagreed, claiming the 52,000 fans inside St James’ Park every week coupled with previous successes in the league and cup decades ago paints a different picture.

Murphy said: “Newcastle are well supported but they’re not a big club, they’re a team that yo-yos between the Championship and the Premier League. How is that a big club?”

He added: “I got mullered for saying Villa weren’t a big club, I had to retract a little bit because they have been a big club because they won the European Cup and they’ve completed at the top of the Premier League in my lifetime, so actually I was partly wrong there.

“What I meant was and why I never thought it was a big club was because every time I went there (Villa Park) the stadium was never full.

“I’m contradicting myself because if the stadium is full, it creates a big club atmosphere but I was wrong about that because have the stadium full doesn’t constitute being a big club; success and worldwide support does.”

Newcastle face Leicester City at St James’ on Saturday when they will look to end the wait for a first win of the season. Last weekend’s draw at Palace has left them in the relegation zone.