In another day of extraordinary developments at Newcastle United Football Club, the Magpies moved a step closer to sensationally securing the services of revered Spanish manager Rafael Benitez, as the curtain prepares to fall on Steve McClaren’s torrid nine-month reign.

Although McClaren currently remains in the Toon hot-seat ahead of Monday night’s trip to league leaders Leicester City, widespread media reports suggest that the 54-year-old will be relieved of his duties imminently, with his assistant Ian Cathro and u21 coach Peter Beardsley set to take charge at the King Power Stadium if Benitez cannot be instated in time for the top vs bottom clash.

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Speculation over McClaren’s Newcastle future has been incessant since United slumped to a comprehensive 3-1 home defeat against AFC Bournemouth in last weekend’s relegation six-pointer – with many fans ensuring that the former England boss was under no illusions as to their feelings on his role in the club’s current plight.

Tellingly, the Newcastle hierarchy – who have gained a reputation for squashing unsettling media speculation and backing under-fire head coaches in spite of immense fan pressure – have been deathly silent in the wake of the Bournemouth collapse, with McClaren himself left to monitor developments via the media after failing to gain firm clarification on his future from managing director Lee Charnley.

However, Newcastle’s next move has now come to light and, if media claims are to be believed, it’s close to fruition.

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A number of reputable sources report that former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss Rafa Benitez is in advanced talks with the club; with Magpies’ supremos preparing to scrap their current head coach model to acquire the services of the respected Spanish tactician – who will demand full control over transfers.

It’s understood that, if Benitez is given the adequate reassurances about the role and Newcastle’s long-term ambitions, the 55-year-old will initially join on a short-term contract until the end of the season, with a longer three-year deal being dependent upon the 19th placed Magpies securing Premier League survival between now and May 15th – although Sky Sports tonight claim that there’s a possibility he could stay on at the club even if they are demoted to The Championship.

The Toon Army have been conditioned to expect the unexpected over the years, but a side deep in the relegation mire appointing an illustrious manager who was in charge of the world’s biggest club Real Madrid just a few months ago would be utterly bonkers, even by Newcastle’s standards.

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The prospect of Benitez going from managing Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema to Yoan Gouffran, Gabriel Obertan and Paul Dummett in one season is mind-boggling to say the least, but, if the Spaniard is appointed as United’s new manager over the coming days, he will gain the Toon Army’s instant adoration and support – reinvigorating a disillusioned fan base that seemed all but resigned to relegation just a few days ago.

It’s never plain sailing with Newcastle, and there are sure to be plenty of twists yet, however, if the Magpies do manage to get Benitez over the line, it will be one hell of a coup.

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