Rafa Benitez close to agreeing terms to remain at relegated Newcastle United
Rafa Benitez is set to agree terms to remain as Newcastle United manager, despite their relegation to the Championship, after he was given all the reassurances he wanted from owner Mike Ashley.
Benitez has even begun to discuss potential transfer targets following a further round of discussions with managing director Lee Charnley on Monday and a budget for recruitment is likely to be finalised in the next few days.
Benitez will want to make sure everything he has been promised is guaranteed in writing, but sources close to the discussions have indicated it has been overwhelmingly positive on both sides of the negotiating table.
The speed with which a conclusion to the talks is approaching has surprised those involved, but Benitez’s decision to stay on as manager could even be confirmed by the weekend.
He returned to Merseyside on Monday evening to discuss things with his family, but they are also in support of decision to stay at a club where there is so much affection for him.
The only potential stumbling block is if another English club makes a late attempt to turn his head, although Everton have still not made any contact with Benitez or his advisors and he is only focused on making sure everything is right for him on Tyneside.
It is a remarkable shift in the Spaniard’s thinking as he has fallen in love with the club and still believes it has the potential to challenge for European football, even though they will have adjust to life in the Championship in the short term.
Ashley has made it clear to the former Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid manager that he is desperate to keep him and has promised to make sure he has the resources to make sure the Magpies achieve an instant return to the top flight.
The news will delight Newcastle supporters, who chanted Benitez’s name throughout the 5-1 home win over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday and credit must all be given to Ashley and Charnley for giving the 56-year-old what he wanted in order to persuade him to stay.
Significantly, Benitez has been given full control of recruitment, the first time this has happened since Ashley bought the club in 2007. He will decide who is signed and who leaves the club this summer.
As revealed by Telegraph Sport, that means chief scout Graham Carr will be leaving the club this summer, although Charnley is highly unlikely to leave , despite overseeing the disaster of relegation.
One of the players who will almost certainly quit St James’ Park is winger Andros Townsend, who has a £13m release clause in his contract after relegation.
But the England international, who was included in Roy Hodgson’s European Championship squad, is as excited as anyone by the prospect of Benitez staying in charge of the team.
“It would be massive for Newcastle to keep Rafa as manager,” Townsend said. “He is one of the best managers in the world. If we can keep a manager of that calibre and keep doing the right things we will build.
“We will not cut corners and we'll build for the future and come straight back in the Premier League, and not just in the top flight, but up there challenging [for Europe} because that is what the manager wants to do.”