Sunday 16 December 2018

Benitez wants to put contract talk aside and focus on season ahead

The Spaniard has entered the final 12 months of his existing deal.

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez will not allow his contractual situation to disrupt the new season (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez will not allow his contractual situation to disrupt the new season (Owen Humphreys/PA)

By Damian Spellman, Press Association Sport

Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez has insisted he will not allow the ongoing uncertainty over his contractual situation to disrupt a fresh drive for Premier League safety.

The 58-year-old Spaniard has endured another frustrating transfer window during which his efforts to strengthen his squad were hampered by his decision not to accept the club’s offer of an extension to extend his current deal, which is due to expire next summer.

He was in diplomatic mood when asked about the Magpies’ summer business at his press conference on Friday afternoon, and later allowed his name to be added to a statement to supporters, along with those of managing director Lee Charnley and captain Jamaal Lascelles, aimed at offsetting mounting discontent within the fanbase.

However, asked if his own situation might disrupt the season, which gets under way against Tottenham on Saturday, he said: “I don’t think so.

“We have time to do things and I don’t need to explain at every press conference that we have talked. We know now is the time to relax a little bit and concentrate on the games. Then we have plenty of time to talk about that.

“It is not the right time to talk about that. I am happy here. I want to be sure that we can compete. We start tomorrow. That is it.”

Newcastle signed seven players before Thursday’s transfer deadline, but also recorded a net profit of more than £20million, leaving fans bewildered after owner Mike Ashley, whose Sports Direct business agreed a £90million deal to buy House of Fraser on Friday, had promised him “every last penny” the club generated to spend.

However, in Friday afternoon’s statement, Benitez, Charnley and Lascelles expressed confidence that the squad is stronger than it was 12 months ago.

The statement said: “Doing good business in a transfer window is about ending the window clearly stronger than when you started and we believe we have done this.

“The view we all share is that we have a better squad now than the one that finished 10th last season and all involved have worked tirelessly to make this happen.”

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