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Rafa starts Toon contract talks


WANTED: Rafa Benitez. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA

WANTED: Rafa Benitez. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA

WANTED: Rafa Benitez. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA

Rafael Benitez has revealed that talks over his Newcastle future are under way.

The Spaniard has a year remaining on his deal but the Magpies are keen to tie him to an extended contract after seeing him guide the club back into the Premier League at the first attempt and secure survival with weeks to spare.

Fans fear that his achievements - and owner Mike Ashley's admission that he cannot afford to fund a drive to the next level - may see Benitez lured away from St James' Park if no takeover goes through this summer, but the first blows have now been struck.

The former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss, who will lead his side into battle with West Brom today, said: "We have had conversations and we will have conversations next week.

"My representatives are talking with [managing director] Lee Charnley and that's it.

"I will not say anything else about that because I want to concentrate on football."

Fans will be desperate for those discussions, which will also include transfer budgets and longer-term planning, to be concluded swiftly and successfully.

Benitez said: "I think that's good for everybody."

The 58-year-old is keen to have the spending power to be able to add quality and experience to the young players he has been asked to develop having struggled to do so during recent transfer windows.

However, he was somewhat mischievous when asked to pay tribute to departing Barcelona star Andres Iniesta.

He said: "Has he said to which team he will go or not?"

When it was suggested Newcastle might be a possibility, he replied with a smile: "That could be fine. We can prepare something for him right now.

"You saw him on the ball and it was a pleasure. He's a great player, he's a nice person and hopefully he will do well wherever he goes. They say he will go to China, but maybe he would like to come here."