Benitez eyes instant Premier League return after agreeing Newcastle stay
Published 26/05/2016 | 04:36
Rafael Benitez is relishing the challenge of guiding Newcastle back to the Barclays Premier League at the first attempt after agreeing to remain as manager at St James' Park.
The 56-year-old signed a new initial three-year deal to remain as Magpies boss on Wednesday afternoon following his decision not to trigger the release clause in the contract he penned in March that protected him in the event of relegation.
And now having decided to stay, Benitez has set his sights on winning promotion from the Sky Bet Championship next season.
"It is a challenge. I have a reputation. I have been in football all my life and I have won trophies, so now it is time to have a new project and a new challenge," the Spaniard, who will have day-to-day responsibility for all football-related matters, said at a press conference.
"I can see the possibilities, the size of the club and what it means to the fans, even the press. I can see it is massive, and I want to be part of that.
"To be successful we have to do well. That is football, you cannot guarantee things, but I am here because I am convinced we can go up next season and stay for a long time in the Premier League, even win trophies."
Hopes had been high of keeping Benitez on Tyneside ever since he held positive talks with managing director Lee Charnley in the immediate aftermath of relegation and then spoke to owner Mike Ashley.
Benitez had taken on a 10-game rescue mission when he replaced Steve McClaren, but although he was unable to pull it off as the Magpies finished a disastrous season on just 37 points, they did so with a six-match unbeaten run culminating in a 5-1 demolition of Tottenham.
That was enough to convince the embittered Toon Army that Benitez was the right man for the job and, with Charnley having pulled off something of a coup to get him in the first place, he was handed the equally-taxing challenge of securing his services for at least one season in the second tier.
Charnley said: "When we brought Rafa to the club in March, we knew he was a phenomenal manager and everything we have seen from him since has only served to reinforce that.
"We are therefore delighted to have secured his services for the next three years and I believe with Rafa as manager, it gives us the best possible chance of returning to the Premier League at the first time of asking and delivering success for this football club beyond that."