SHEIKH Khaled bin Zayed al Nahyan is believed to want Rafa Benitez to lead Newcastle United into a bright new era once he has completed his £350m takeover at St James’ Park.

It has been confirmed via a statement issued by Sheikh Khaled’s Bin Zayed Group that he has “agreed terms” after negotiating a £350m deal to buy the Premier League club from Mike Ashley.

The challenge is now on for the Dubai-based Emirati, who is said to be the cousin of Manchester City’s owner Sheikh Mansour, to get things wrapped up as quickly as possible to embark on his first transfer window in charge of the club.

Neither Newcastle nor the Premier League are making any comment at this stage, although the Tyneside club have admitted that the Bin Zayed Group’s statement is genuine.

The Bin Zayed Group, of which the Sheikh is the chairman, read: "We can confirm that representatives of His Highness Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan are in discussions with Mike Ashley and his team, about the proposed acquisition of Newcastle United Football Club.

"We view it as an honour to have the opportunity to build on the strong support, history and tradition of the club. We have agreed terms and are working hard to complete the transaction at the earliest opportunity."

Ashley has been in talks to sell the club for a while and has been unsuccessful in attempts to offload it to groups connected with Amanda Staveley and Peter Kenyon, who were unable to produce the funding to complete.

Sheikh Khaled is not expected to have any problems in that area, although only last year he was said to have failed in a staggering £2bn takeover of Liverpool having made approaches during late 2017 and 2018.

Newcastle are an attractive purchase for him after world-renowned boss Benitez helped secure Premier League status for a third year in a row and boasting a sell-out 52,000 St James’ Park crowd for every home game.

Benitez has been in talks over a new deal for the last couple of weeks and there has so far been no breakthrough, with the Spaniard looking for assurances over a sizeable transfer budget to take Newcastle to the next level.

Sheikh Khaled would be able to provide the financial clout necessary for Benitez to invest in a squad he wants to turn into an established top ten team challenging for Europe – and even higher in the future.

He would also be able to invest in the club's infrastructure, with Benitez calling for improvements to be made to the training ground and academy. Sheikh Mansour transformed Manchester City on and off the pitch.

There were other interested parties in buying Newcastle and Ashley wants things wrapped up sooner rather than later. That, potentially, explains why talks of extending Benitez’s deal have taken so long ahead of his existing deal expiring on June 30.

Benitez has already had interest in him from Marseille and Roma since the end of the season but sources at both clubs in France and Italy have claimed he is focused on staying at Newcastle.

Working under Dubai-based Sheikh Khaled, who is a member of the royal family in the neighbouring Emirate Abu Dhabi, Benitez would certainly have his ambitions met and he will be hoping there are no snags and the takeover deal is completed.

Provided everything goes smoothly then the Premier League’s owners and directors test will have to be passed.

Ashley has tried, and failed, to sell Newcastle for years and the most recent, and most public attempts to strike a deal with Staveley and Kenyon never reached the stage where a change of ownership was seriously on the cards.

That said, though, the billionaire sportswear tycoon has always been surprised by an apparent lack of credible buyers for a club which clearly has a lot of potential and an enormous following in the North-East of England.

Sheikh Khaled, 62, is also the president of the UAE sailing and rowing federation and was a business studies graduate at Boston University. He is said to be a huge fan of English football and his interest in Liverpool and Newcastle in recent times highlights that.

He is also the founder of the Bin Zayed Group, a collection of national and international businesses operating in assorted fields including construction and energy.

Newcastle supporters will be buzzing at the prospect of such a wealthy businessman taking over having been frustrated for the vast majority of Ashley’s 12 years in control by his lack of funds for players and commitment shown to the club.

Ashley has regularly had to deal with hostility towards him and on the final day of the season when Newcastle won at Fulham the travelling fans once again demanded his departure, while urging Benitez to stay.