RAFA BENITEZ insists the only reason he left Newcastle United was because he didn't trust Mike Ashley any more after rubbishing claims he left purely for the money.

Newcastle’s managing director Lee Charnley suggested in his matchday programme notes for Sunday's Arsenal game the club had done all it could to keep Benitez, but were unable to match the £12m salary he had been offered by Dalian Yifang.

The suggestion that was his reasoning for leaving St James' Park has annoyed Benitez and he has used his first column for The Athletic to hit back.

"I’ve encouraged supporters to get behind Steve Bruce and his new team — but I’ve been made aware of what Lee Charnley, Newcastle’s managing director, claimed in the club’s match programme last weekend and I think it’s important I address that," Benitez said.

"Newcastle’s board had a year to sort out my contract but, when we met after the end of last season, they didn’t make me an offer I could accept. They told me they didn’t want to invest in the academy or the training ground — if they like, I can explain the reason why Mike Ashley refused to do that."

And he added: "I knew they would not come back with a serious offer and, when it arrived… it was for the same salary as three years earlier and with less control over signings. After three years of unfulfilled promises, I didn’t trust them.

"In front of us we had three options: nothing serious from Newcastle, the hope of a possible takeover or a different project. Yes, it was a big offer in China — I have never denied that — but it was also another continent and another league, from a club giving us a lot of recognition and respect. That decision wasn’t easy, but it was clear.”