THIS is turning into a pivotal week in Newcastle United’s history, with the club having confirmed that Rafael Benitez is leaving his position as the club’s manager. Chief Sports Writer Scott Wilson looks at how it has come to this – and assesses what might happen next


Yes. After a stand-off that had become increasingly entrenched since the turn of the year, the noises emanating from Rafael Benitez’s camp at the weekend suggested the Spaniard’s relationship with Mike Ashley had broken down to the point of no repair.

As of yesterday morning, there was still a slight chance that a last-ditch round of talks could have resulted in a rapprochement, but Newcastle United’s bombshell statement released shortly after lunch-time ended any hope of an agreement. “It is with disappointment that we announce manager Rafael Benítez will leave Newcastle United upon the expiry of his contract on 30th June 2019,” the statement read. And that was the end of that.


A whole host of things. Throughout his time on Tyneside, Benitez repeatedly bemoaned the lack of ambition shown by those above him, and the lack of support that was available to him as he has attempted to turn Newcastle from relegation candidates to European contenders.

Money was clearly an issue, with Benitez having repeatedly sought guarantees about the funds that would be available to him in future transfer windows. Speaking when Newcastle released their most recent accounts, Lee Charnley suggested that this summer’s transfer budget would be around £50m, plus anything raised by player sales. Once wages, agents’ payments and loan fees are taken into account, Benitez did not think that was sufficient to ensure Newcastle could compete with the likes of Leicester City, Everton and West Ham – the Premier League’s ‘mid-table’ teams – in the transfer market.

The Northern Echo:

Control was also an issue. Benitez felt he missed out on targets because Newcastle’s recruitment process was not fit for purpose. He was especially frustrated at the amount of time it took for Ashley to make a final call over recruitment decisions. He was also unhappy at Ashley’s strong preference for signing young, unproven players with a high potential sell-on value, and extreme reluctance to offer long-term deals to anyone in their late 20s. That was also going to be an issue this summer, with Benitez wanting to sign Salomon Rondon.

Recently, Benitez’s personal terms also become more of an issue. The Spaniard earned £6m-a-year at Newcastle, and it is not thought that the one-year contract he was offered represented a raise on those terms.

Meanwhile, Chinese club Dalian Yifang offered £12m-a-year to take him to the Far East. Benitez has previously claimed he had no interest in moving to China, but it is an option that remains on the table.


Benitez would argue so, and in terms of the PR battle in the eyes of the fans, the Champions League winner can do no wrong. However, there are two sides involved here, and Newcastle’s owners would argue they did all they could to try to meet Benitez’s demands, while maintaining a level of financial prudence that ensures the club does not get into any more debt.

Charnley is adamant that all available income will be made available for reinvestment this summer, but is also insistent that he has to balance the books. Newcastle broke their transfer record to sign Miguel Almiron in January, and the club are understood to be willing to pay even more this summer to land Brazilian striker Joelinton.

The Northern Echo:

Benitez can be a difficult character to negotiate with. He has become involved in political wrangles at a number of his previous clubs, and has been every bit as intransigent as Ashley when it comes to this summer’s stand-off. He would argue he was just trying to do what was best for Newcastle – the Magpies hierarchy might argue he consistently refused to accept the reality of the position he was in.


Yes. This summer’s discussions took place against a backdrop of huge uncertainty over the future ownership of the club. The Dubai-based Bin Zayed Group have made a number of public comments about their takeover aspirations, and Ashley is also understood to have held discussions with at least two other interested parties. However, as things stand, the formal process of having a takeover ratified by the Premier League has not been initiated, and it is looking increasingly unlikely that a takeover will be completed before the transfer window closes in early August.

Why did that matter? If Ashley is serious about wanting to sell the club – and for all the understandable scepticism about the sportswear magnate’s motives, sources insist that is the case – he was always going to be reluctant to sanction any investment above and beyond what is available from incomings.

Throwing more money at the transfer kitty or Benitez’s wage slip would increase Ashley’s investment into the club, and therefore increase the sum he would want to receive before agreeing to sell. Hence why it has not happened.

The Northern Echo:

Benitez would have loved the opportunity to work under new owners, and the prospect of a successful takeover probably explains why it took him so long to decide to walk away. The fact he has now decided to sever his relationship with Newcastle suggests he does not think a change of ownership is imminent.


Newcastle’s statement ended by saying: “The process to appoint a successor will now begin.” Even last week, the hierarchy had hoped Benitez could be persuaded to sign a new deal, so there is not currently a Plan B. That will have to change quickly.

The Northern Echo:

Despite the obvious difficulties involved in working under Ashley, Newcastle will not be short of expressions of interest in the post. This is a chance to work in the Premier League for one of England’s biggest clubs.

Ashley and Charnley will have to decide what type of manager they want. Do they want someone with a proven record in the Premier League? Or would they rather appoint a continental-style head coach and overhaul their executive management structure?

Ashley’s unpredictability means it is hard to second guess which way he will turn. Garry Monk, who was an early favourite in the betting? Jose Mourinho, who was linked to a potential takeover? Alan Pardew to make a remarkable return? When it comes to Ashley and Charnley, it would be dangerous to rule anything out.

There will have to be movement of some kind by next week, with some of Newcastle’s players due to report to the club’s Little Benton training ground for the start of pre-season training next Thursday.

Benitez would not normally take the early fitness sessions, but he would ordinarily be present and hold meetings with his coaches and some members of the squad. He will not be there next week, so someone will have to step in.

Time is of the essence as Newcastle are due to play their first pre-season game in China as part of the Premier League Asia Trophy in 22 days’ time. The transfer window closes on August 8, with Newcastle’s first game of the new Premier League season pitting them against Arsenal three days later.

Up until now, Newcastle have not considered what a post-Benitez might look like. Now, they find themselves faced with exactly that scenario.