Sadly, the season kicked off with a lot more talk about Rafa Benitez & Mike Ashley, rather than Rafa Benitez & his players.
After winning the Championship title AND producing a £40m transfer surplus in his first full season at the club, the momentum was with Newcastle United under the leadership of the Champions League, La Liga (twice) winning manager.
It would be over the top possibly to say that this momentum has fallen over the edge of a cliff in the three months since Newcastle won the second tier title BUT it has definitely stalled.
Fingers of blame are being pointed for this, with Rafa, the fans and much of the media who cover Newcastle laying the blame at the owner’s door, however, Mike Ashley has rallied his trusted people and launched a counter offensive.
Quotes were released before Sunday’s opening match against Spurs and then a full lengthy ‘interview’ broadcast on Sky Sports on Sunday night, only hours after the final whistle.
Rafa Benitez was asked after the final whistle whether he was meeting Mike Ashley with the owner having travelled up for the game, the Spaniard replied that he didn’t know whether he would be doing that.
When pressed, Rafa denied that it wasn’t that he didn’t want to meet Ashley, rather that it was the owner who solely decided these things. Later on Sunday, George Caulkin of The Times revealed that whilst Rafa Benitez was carrying out his media duties, Mike Ashley had ‘left the building’ without bothering to make contact with his manager.
Added to that, club legend Shay Given then revealed that people inside Newcastle United had told him that Mike Ashley hadn’t spoken to Rafa Benitez ‘in months’, indicating that the end of season meeting when Ashley promised Rafa ‘every penny’ to spend on players this summer, was the last conversation.
The Sky Sports interview saw Ashley talk of not being able to compete with PL clubs owned by ‘states/countries’, that he couldn’t finance £200m Neymar type deals, or simply hand Rafa Benitez a £150m transfer kitty.
Much more was said but on the key points of transfer budgets/signings but the response of many was bemusement, as the United boss has spent only £22m net this transfer window (after Joselu arrived this morning for a reported £5m transfer fee) and has seen deals for free agent Willy Caballero and loan signing Tammy Abraham blocked by Ashley. So comparing this and £200m transfers & competing financially against Manchester City appear poles apart.
So in this war of words that has broken out between Mike Ashley and Rafa Benitez, who do we believe and/or see as being in the right?
I would say you just need to ask yourself the following two questions.
Has Mike Ashley misled Rafa Benitez on how much he would have to spend this summer & total freedom as to the deals he wanted to make within those expected funds?
Was Mike Ashley’s Sky Sports interview intended to help Rafa Benitez and Newcastle United get the season off to the best of starts, or was it to simply serve his (Ashley’s ) own interests in projecting himself as blameless/helpless & without a care in terms of how it would affect Rafa and his job of trying to help Newcastle survive this season?
Interested to hear what you might think below but I find it very hard to see how any rational person won’t see the answers to the above as.
In my opinion, Mike Ashley has definitely misled Rafa Benitez in terms of how he would be supported in the transfer market this summer.
Even more clearly, the Sky Sports interview, especially the crass timing, can only be seen as something that he (Ashley) wanted to do for his own purposes/benefit and NOT to help the club/Rafa.
Forget all about exactly how much Rafa Benitez could/should have had to spend, depending on the finances of the club, the Premier League cash that will come this season, or whatever (what exactly ‘every penny’ did meant). Simply concentrate on Mike Ashley and his actions towards Rafa Benitez.
I can’t see how you can come to any other conclusion than that Ashley has led Rafa to believe one thing would happen, then another totally different set of circumstances being presented to the United boss by Ashley and his minions.
Then to cap that, the owner spitefully reacted to Rafa Benitez repeatedly making clear that promises haven’t been kept, by timing his ‘I’m just a humble shopkeeper with no access to cash and doing my very very best against the other 19 PL club owners who make it impossible to compete financially’ embarrassing Sky Sports ‘interview’ (scripted questions asked by his friend/associate, presenter David Craig of Sky Sports) to stamp all over Rafa’s season preparations.
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])