Newcastle United are yet again at a crossroads. Rafa Benitez has a year left on his contract and Mike Ashley doesn’t want to relinquish control. It’s the same story every summer. Will Rafa stay? Will Ashley give him what he wants?
Benitez has turned a whole city around since his arrival, yet Ashley still harbors some reserve to let him fully transform United into an outfit that can challenge for Europe. Give Rafa the cash and control and let him get it on with it. Simple, yes?
The issue at the moment seems that Rafa’s seeking clarity and he continues to being fed muddy water. How much will he have to spend? Will each purchase have to be approved? Is there a certain limit he can spend per player? Does Charnley have to go through someone else each time there’s a change in negotiations? There are plenty of unanswered questions which is holding Rafa back, and it sounds like it’s reaching a stage where frustration is coming through even before the season has ended.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Rafa values the Newcastle fanbase hugely. But he’s said time and time again, that it’s not acceptable for him to scrape by in a relegation battle every season and maybe manage 10th in the table. Rafa wants to battle for trophies and for Europe. It could be that Ashley wants the same, we don’t know, but he’d want it done within his set of rules. The Spaniard won’t settle for mediocrity once again, he won’t be here for that.
So now some say Rafa is seeking clarity on the questions mentioned earlier. He wants things streamlined. He doesn’t want the complications that arose previously and hindered him to get his targets. Benitez wants a set amount of money and freedom to do as he pleases within that. Be it £30M, £50M or £70M. No obstacles, no parameters to follow. No need for Ashley’s involvement in a process.
The best thing that could happen to NUFC is a takeover. But Staveley’s people aren’t uttering a word and neither is Ashley’s people. Yet, it’s believed that Staveley is very much interested. MA knows that it’s imperative that United keep hold of Benitez. His knowledge of the club and football in general would be hugely important to a buyer such as Staveley. Who really doesn’t know how to run one in fairness, just how to purchase them.
There’s big investments to be had for Newcastle United when it comes to training ground and academy. Throwing some paint on it won’t do, and Rafa told that to the board, yet they’ve failed to act upon it.
The forum minutes was also telling about where priorities lie. It’s always these duck and weave answers. “We were relegated and that was costly.” “It’s not financially viable to upgrade the stadium.” It reads as hostile and defensive answers, and United will do anything to avoid transparency. Even the accounts are well overdue.
Exactly what Rafa wants and needs is transparency and clarity at the same time. It’s very difficult to know how he’ll get that, but if he doesn’t, I fear for Benitez’s departure more than I have at any point so far.