RAFAEL BENITEZ has urged the Newcastle United hierarchy to return to the negotiating table as quickly as possible now the club have all-but-guaranteed their Premier League safety.

Ayoze Perez’s first hat-trick in Newcastle colours secured a 3-1 win over Southampton that lifted the Magpies to the 41-point mark.

Their safety will be mathematically guaranteed if Cardiff City lose to Liverpool tomorrow, but even if the Bluebirds were to spring a surprise, it would still take a remarkable series of results to see Newcastle drop out of the top-flight now.

With their safety all-but-assured, attention will once again switch to Benitez’s future, with the Spaniard’s current contract due to expire on June 30.

An initial round of talks broke down before Christmas, and neither Lee Charnley nor Mike Ashley have attempted to restart discussions in the last few months.

Benitez said: “We have to talk. Everything that will happen between now and the 30th of June has to be good for everyone. One way or another way, still I am the manager until the 30th of June. I have to decide if we sign anyone, so we have to talk any time.”

Newcastle’s transfer policy remains a major sticking point in Benitez’s talks with the club, both in terms of the finances that will be available to the Spaniard if he signs a new deal and the extent to which he will be free to spend the money as he likes.

Earlier this week, Charnley reiterated the board’s desire to recruit players aged 24 or under, and extreme reluctance to sanction deals for anyone approaching their 30s. Clearly, Benitez has serious misgivings about such a policy.

He said: “It is very clear that we have been improving, but at the same time, we know that we have a limit. If you are in the Premier League, you have to compete with other teams in the Premier League depending on your level.

“Our level has to be between seventh and tenth, and we have to compete with these teams in the transfer market, with the wage bill, with everything.

“We need to find the balance. We signed (Martin) Dubravka last year, and he won the first game he played for us against Manchester United. He is older than 24.

“We have (Miguel) Almiron doing well, but we also have (Salomon) Rondon, who is older than 24. At the same time, you have (Isaac) Hayden, (Jamaal) Lascelles and even (Sean) Longstaff. So the balance is the key. I think we have to analyse this and try to do what we have to do to compete in the Premier League.”

In terms of this afternoon’s game, Benitez was delighted with his side’s performance as they swept aside a Southampton side who are now four places below Newcastle in the table.

He said: “I am really pleased. The players did really well during the whole season, and the fans, both away and at home, have also been really helpful for the group. There are a lot of positives.

“To have 41 points at this stage of the season means we are nearly safe. We cannot say mathematically we are safe, but we are nearly safe, and now we have three games to try to do our best and finish as high as possible in the table.”