Whatever the state of Rafa Benitez’s football management skills are at the moment, his hardball skills seem intact.
He is interested in managing Newcastle, we are led to believe.
But there are sticking points. He wants the title of manager and the powers that go with it. He wants his own coaching team (see image above). He wants control over transfers.
If so, it is Ashley who for once finds himself held over a barrel.
Does he says no and risk the prize of TV rights riches he has already ordered the club to spend millions and millions on preserving?
Does he risk the world-wide TV platform for his Sports Direct brand?
These are the only reasons why Rafa Benitez has received this SOS.
For make no mistake, what Benitez appears to be asking as his price, is the scrapping of what has been a nine year labour for Ashley. The painstaking Sports Directification of Newcastle United.
At the moment the club ticks along like one of his stores, untidy and shabby. Low maintenance, but profitable.
Rafa’s price tag, as reported today, would come with hefty ramifications for Ashley. Graham Carr, a man closer to Ashley than he is to the club, would lose his stipend. Does Ashley really want a man who buys players to fill holes on the pitch, rather than for their value as Panini stickers to be traded?
Then there’d be more costly paying off the contracts awarded to the cast list of the Summer 2015 production of Brave New World.
Will Benitez accept having to go through Lee Charnley to get his message to Ashley?
And will Rafa accept being pushed out before the TV cameras with a club script in his hand? Would he accept being treated like McClaren has been treated….like a dispensable, low-status, shop manager.
Could you imagine Rafa begging Ashley’s personal PR man for his job after a game?
In truth, none of this could be right. Journalists are putting out theories based on the snippets they are hearing at the moment. No one is really in the know.
A one-shot three month contract might be the result. If it is three years, Rafa Benitez will surely want some assurances he’s not going to be scuttling around the training ground car park like a fly with it’s wings pulled off in six months time.
He’ll want to know the assurances he gets are binding, and that he won’t walk into his office one day to find Dennis Wise sitting in his chair as Director of Football.
Ashley has had a tough year, with one relegation to his name already.
Is he a new man, chastened at last…..again?
Or is he the one still sticking two fingers up at Parliament and seeing his lawyers laughed out off court?
Rafa will need to know before he puts pen to paper.