NEWCASTLE UNITED are ready to offer Rafael Benitez a one-year contract extension in an attempt to break the ongoing impasse over his future – but the Magpies manager has reiterated his demands for an assurance that the club will be able to compete financially with the likes of Leicester, Everton and West Ham.

Newcastle’s Premier League survival was mathematically confirmed at the weekend, with Ayoze Perez’s hat-trick securing a 3-1 win over Southampton. Cardiff City’s defeat against Liverpool yesterday means it is now impossible for the Magpies to finish in the bottom three.

With safety assured, there is now even more of a pressing need to resolve Benitez’s contractual position. The Spaniard’s current deal is due to expire at the end of June, and despite having conduced a series of press briefings about Newcastle’s latest accounts last week, Lee Charnley is yet to sit down with Benitez or his representatives to spell out what Mike Ashley is willing to offer.

The Newcastle hierarchy want Benitez to stay, and ideally, they would like to see the 59-year-old commit himself to a new long-term deal. However, there is acknowledgement that the clock is ticking, and a one-year extension is viewed as a potential ‘bridging agreement’ that would enable both sides to formulate a longer-term strategy over the next few months.

Benitez is clearly torn over what to do next. On the one hand, he has developed a strong bond with Newcastle and the club’s fans and wants to remain in England for family reasons. On the other, however, he acknowledges he is entering his final decade in management and does not want to be tied to a club that offers no realistic opportunity for success.

Having accepted that he is unlikely to be granted the funds required to make radical improvements to the infrastructure at the training ground or enact an overhaul of Newcastle’s academy, Benitez’s demands are effectively twofold. First, he wants guarantees he will be granted the funds required to compete in the transfer market with any of the clubs outside the established ‘big six’. Second, he wants to know he will be able to spend those funds as he sees fit.

Both issues are likely to be major stumbling blocks given Charnley’s comments in his financial briefings last week.

In terms of net transfer spend, Charnley suggested Benitez would be granted a spending pot of around £100m over the next two years – effectively four transfer windows – which he will be able to supplement by raising funds from players sales.

However, having trumpeted a reduction in the wage bill in the most recent accounts, and hailed the fact that Newcastle’s wages-to-turnover ratio now stands at 52.4 per cent, Charnley is clearly going to be reluctant to break the club’s current wage ceiling, which stands at around £70,000-a-week.

Given that most mid-table Premier League clubs are now routinely paying wages of more than £100,000-a-week to their highest earners, Benitez is understandably worried this will leave Newcastle at a huge disadvantage.

“The teams in seventh, eighth and ninth spend £100m and pay £100,000-a-week,” said Benitez. “So what do we want to do? Do we want to compete in this range, or do we want to survive? That is it. That is what we have to decide.

“Everything is about money. If you sign a player like Richarlison for £45m, then you have to pay a certain amount in wages. We have to be able to compete. The way that we are, we have to be competing against Everton, but they are competing to be seventh and to go to Europe.

“If they are paying £140,000-a-week in wages, how can you compete with them and attract players if you do not do the same? Even if you are willing to pay a big transfer fee, you have to be willing to pay the wages.

“I want to know where we are. That is it. Where do we want to go? What is our ambition? If we cannot compete with other teams in transfer fees and wages, fine. We have to say that. But it doesn’t matter what we say, it is what we do.”

Benitez is also concerned at Newcastle’s ongoing policy of prioritising the purchase of players aged 24 or under, and refusing to offer contracts to anyone who is approaching their 30s.

Salomon Rondon’s future is a key issue, with Benitez desperate to sign the West Brom loanee on a permanent basis, even though he is due to turn 30 in September. Both Charnley and Ashley are extremely reluctant to give the green light for a deal as they do not feel there will be any sell-on value at the end of Rondon’s contract, so they will effectively have to write off around £16m.

Benitez feels that is a short-sighted view, as it does not take into account the need to assemble a balanced squad that contains experience as well as youthful potential.

“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,” he said. “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 Rondon, who is older than 24.

“Rondon has been crucial this year – these players can give the other players more time to grow and improve. I don’t need to talk too much about that because it is very clear for everyone. We need to decide. Do we want to go one way or another way? Do we want to challenge to be seventh or do we want to challenge to be 17th and see what happens? That is it.”

The Newcastle hierarchy’s counter-argument would be that they do not want to spend money they do not have, and that Ashley is unwilling to pile more debt on to the books while he continues to seek a buyer willing to take the club off his hands.

“I will not say what we have to do,” said Benitez. “I just want to know what we want to do, and after that we have to decide. I will not force anyone to make any decisions.

“I will not say to anyone what they have to do. I have been in teams without too much money and winning trophies. Not just competing, winning trophies. Different teams, but more or less with the same money, against top sides, and winning trophies. I have some experience, and I know what I have to do with or without money. But I want to know where we are.”

* Newcastle’s final home game against Liverpool will be played at 7.45pm on Saturday, May 4. The game, which could have massive implications in terms of the visitors’ pursuit of the title, has been rescheduled on a number of occasions because of television coverage and Liverpool’s Champions League commitments