IT is now two weeks since Newcastle United announced the news of Rafael Benitez’s departure. In the intervening period, Benitez has completed his contract at St James’ Park, signed a two-and-a-half year deal with Chinese side Dalian Yifang, led his new employers to a 3-1 win over Henan Jianye in his first game in charge and conducted two lengthy interviews outlining his reasons for leaving Tyneside. His former employers? Let’s just say they haven’t been quite as busy.

One of Benitez’s main frustrations as Newcastle manager was the glacial pace at which the club’s hierarchy made any significant decision, so it is probably only fitting that his departure has highlighted the very failing that hastened his exit. Fourteen days on from Newcastle’s bombshell statement, and nothing has changed.

Actually, that is not strictly true. Ayoze Perez has joined Leicester City for £30m, further diminishing a squad that had already lost Mo Diame, Salomon Rondon, Antonio Barreca and Kenedy since the end of last season. When it comes to selling players, Mike Ashley’s Newcastle are still open for business.

Switch the focus to appointing a manager or completing a takeover, though, and the silence emanating from St James’ Park remains deafening. The two issues are intertwined, something that is hardly helpful on either score, but there is little to suggest that any meaningful progress has been made on either front since Benitez’s departure was confirmed. And all the while, the countdown clock to Newcastle’s first pre-season game in the Premier League Asia Trophy a week on Wednesday is ticking.

Let’s start with the takeover first, because the future ownership of the club is the biggest single factor that will determine the direction that the Magpies head in over the next few years.

Is a takeover likely? That is the £350m question, or perhaps the £400m question with a few extra sponsorship clauses thrown in if Ashley gets his way. With Ashley and Lee Charnley sticking steadfastly to their ‘no comment’ response to any formal queries regarding a takeover, the stark reality is that no one knows with any degree of certainty whether a change of ownership is likely before the start of the season, the end of the year or indeed any time before 2030.

With corroboration from multiple sources, it is possible to be fairly certain that detailed talks with at least two different parties have taken place this summer. There is also sufficient substance to state with some degree of confidence that the Bin Zayed Group harbour a genuine desire to complete a deal.

Beyond that though, we head into the realms of conjecture, conspiracy theory and chaos. Earlier today, a Dubai-based journalist purporting to be close to BZG issued a statement he claimed came from a meeting with the group. “We have completed every aspect required in a takeover process,” said the statement. “Press claims of no bids or Premier League approval processes are simply untrue. The current owners have cooperated amicably throughout this process, and if a deal is not forthcoming, it will not be due to lack of effort from both parties.”

As has been the case throughout this tortuous process, the veracity of the claims is impossible to establish. Would a company on the brink of completing a £350m takeover be issuing statements via a Geordie journalist’s Twitter feed? Would they tolerate the kind of ‘cat-and-mouse game’ that has played out in the last few months? And even if the answer to both of those questions is yes, what does the phrase ‘if a deal is not forthcoming’ suggest in terms of what comes next?

Newcastle supporters have been scarred by the failed takeover attempts of Amanda Staveley and Peter Kenyon and are now justifiably sceptical of anything relating to the ownership of the club. Does Ashley really want to sell? The only truthful answer, as with so much that is being speculated about at the moment, is ‘Who knows?’

The one indisputable fact is that Newcastle are now just 34 days away from their opening Premier League game against Arsenal and still do not have a manager. The club can point to Neil Redfearn and Ben Dawson taking charge of the opening week of pre-season and claim they have capable people holding the fort, but the reality is that the current situation is hurtling towards the point where it is simply not tenable given the need to overhaul the current squad and start developing a tactical approach and style that ensures Newcastle are able to hit the ground running on August 11.

From a vast list of potential candidates when Benitez’s departure was announced, Ashley and Charnley now find themselves assessing a much smaller pool. Patrick Vieira has committed himself to Nice. Steven Gerrard is adamant he will not be leaving Rangers. Mikel Arteta appears determined to continue his coaching education alongside Pep Guardiola rather than in the madcap world of the Magpies, and Roberto Martinez is telling anyone who will listen that he does not want to leave his current job with Belgium before next summer’s European Championship finals.

Betting markets are notoriously unreliable, but the fact that the main market movers in the last few days have been Chris Wilder and Quique Sanchez Flores probably provides a decent indicator of where Newcastle’s managerial search is taking them. That is not to deride the qualities of either, but swapping Benitez for Wilder would hardly placate the swollen ranks of supporters pledging to give up their season tickets on social media.

The mood amongst the fans is increasingly fractious, but those at the top of the club appear oblivious to the angst. Uncertainty rules, along with inertia. It is not a healthy mix.