AHEAD of a week which should determine the future of Rafa Benitez, Mike Ashley has personally thanked the Newcastle United boss and his players after ending a second successive season in the Premier League with a 4-0 win at Fulham.

Ashley was at Craven Cottage to hear the travelling Magpies supporters do their bit to persuade Benitez to stay on as manager beyond his contract that expires next month.

The club’s billionaire owner is expected to meet up with the Spaniard at some stage this week when it is hoped they can reach an agreement that will lead to a new deal.

Benitez, who has a number of clubs from abroad keen and Roma are the latest believed to be interested in him, wants assurances he will be given the financial backing to take Newcastle up into the top ten and for training facilities to be improved.

He said: “Because we have been talking about this for a while my answer is always the same. We have a meeting coming soon, hopefully, and then we will see where we are.

“Someone will ask me the question, do I want to stay? It’s very easy. I can see the potential of this massive club and hopefully we can do things in a way that will be good for everyone to move forward, maybe together. At the moment, it’s just (about us) keep talking and see what happens next week.”

Ashley looked a relaxed figure in the directors’ box at Craven Cottage alongside managing director Lee Charnley as fans got behind Benitez with a series of songs, including ‘we want you to stay’.

Benitez was not giving anything away when the final whistle had blown either, merely waving to the supporters as he walked off the pitch with the rest of the squad as they acknowledged those who had turned up in their thousands again. Ashley then appeared in the dressing room.

“He (Ashley) said congratulations to everyone,” said Benitez. “We were in the dressing room, so he was talking to me and the team, saying thank you very much but nothing special.

“He came to say thank you very much to all the players and everyone in the dressing room. We will have a meeting hopefully this week and we will see where we are. I don’t know exactly (when). Hopefully this week but as soon as possible.”

If it does turn out to be Benitez’s last game in charge he could not have asked for a better send-off from his players.

Jonjo Shelvey opened the scoring with a sweet volley in the eighth minute and Ayoze Perez added the second from close range a few minutes later. There were two more goals after the restart when Fabian Schar headed in after the hour before striker Salomon Rondon scored in the final minute.

“The fans have been so good all season, since I have been here they have been fantastic and I am trying my best to give them something back,” said Benitez.

“I am always emotional. I am proud to hear the fans singing my name. They have been like this all season. I am professional and if I can give them something back, like these four goals on the last day, a sunny day, it’s nice to know we did what we had to do.”

Rondon’s future is also up in the air because he is due to return to West Brom at the end of his loan. Benitez, if he stays, would like to keep the Venezuelan but he does not know what will happen.

Benitez, whose side climbed to finish 13th, said: “His ten goals was his best score mark in the Premier League and today he has another one. He is really happy and a key player.

“I think he has been an important player for us. I think he wants to stay, the problem is because he was so good the more will be watching him.”

He added: “Obviously I think in the end it was a very good season for us. We have proved that this is a very difficult competition and I am really proud of this group of players, giving everything even after the games we were safe.”