Sky Sports claims of Rafa Benitez replacing Slaven Bilic – Mischief making or any truth?
Even before Newcastle fans were experiencing their hangover after post-match celebration drinks on Saturday night, Sky Sports were looking to deflate the raised hopes with claims that Rafa Benitez could replace Slaven Bilic.
The two managers met at St James Park without a point between them and Saturday’s deserved 3-0 (could have been more) win for Newcastle, leaves West Ham without a point and bottom of the table after conceded 10 goals in their first three matches.
Bilic hasn’t been helped by West Ham not being able to play at home until September due to their stadium hosting the World Athletics – but the Hammers looked a shambles when up against a Newcastle side who had plenty pressure on themselves, as injuries, suspension and lack of proper backing in the transfer market, had left Rafa Benitez facing a tough job.
A popular player at the club, Bilic was appointed as manager in 2015 and a seventh place finish (with 62 points) in his first season, only four points off a Champions League spot, saw his popularity soar at West Ham.
However, a difficult second season saw the Hammers struggle and Rafa Benitez linked a number of times with the West Ham job, though it appeared to be Newcastle United’s official media partner, The Mirror, simply repeating the same story on several occasions.
Rafa Benitez was allegedly close to taking the West Ham job before Real Madrid came in for him in 2015, with the East London club going for Slaven Bilic instead.
The Sky Sports story on Saturday night was that they reported speaking to a ‘senior source’ at West Ham, who told them that the performance against Newcastle was ‘totally unacceptable’ and that Bilic’ job was under threat after three PL defeats and being bottom of the table.
The source added that no decision had been made but that they would decide in ‘the next few days’ whether to give Slaven Bilic more time, or replace him.
It would be very early to replace a manager after three games but the two week international break does give an opportunity to do it, though difficult to see any new boss having time to do anything in these last few days of the transfer window.
The Sky Sports report went on to say that the West Ham owners continue to be ‘big admirers’ of Rafa Benitez and reminded us of the Spaniard’s very public unhappiness with Mike Ashley.
Rafa Benitez has two years of his three year deal remaining at Newcastle and Sky Sports revealed/claimed that it includes a release clause that would allow another club to recruit him, but a figure of more than £5m would need to be paid.
Always difficult to tell just how much is mischief making and what is truth but obviously it would be a nightmare if this doomsday scenario did come to pass. The mind boggles with who exactly Mike Ashley would see as an ideal replacement, with the expectation it would be more JFK/Carver, than Rafa/Keegan.
You wouldn’t put it past the likes of West Ham’s owners to put this idea out in the public domain via Sky Sports as a bit of a fishing expedition, to see if Rafa Benitez would then make known through intermediaries whether he was interested.
With transfer figures these days and West Ham themselves spending £24m just on Arnautovic, paying out £5m or £6m compensation to get the right manager is surely peanuts.
Looking at it positively, hopefully there may be a chance that this West Ham speculation can help push Mike Ashley into giving Rafa Benitez a bit more of a helping hand in these final days of the transfer window. As while yesterday’s win gave everybody hope and a massive lift, it still looks to be a tough challenge to get through this Premier League season without any major stresses.
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