Rafa Benitez has made plenty of headlines recently.
With a Championship team and having been badly let down in the last two transfer windows by Mike Ashley, once again Rafa Benitez has been making it very pubic how he expects signings this month so Newcastle have the best chance of avoiding the drop.
In December the United boss said he wanted all signings to be ideally completed by 15 January and at the very latest by 20 January. It is now 22 January and not one signing, even a loan one, has arrived.
Tactics have also put Rafa Benitez in the headlines. Heavily criticised for being overly negative in the two matches within a month against Manchester City, the manager has made clear he has no option but to play that way until he is backed with better quality players. Those two games were lost but in both, Newcastle had chances in the later stages to equalise and grab what had looked an unlikely looking point.
With that backdrop, the last thing you would maybe expect, would be talk of Rafa Benitez signing a new contract.
Yet an exclusive in the Sunday Times (see below) has claimed that this could be on the cards.
They say that despite his previous disgust at the lack of support in the January 2017 and Summer 2017 transfer windows, Rafa Benitez could be potentially agreeable to a new deal as Mike Ashley has now given him assurances (promises?) that the manager will be backed with signings this month.
The Sunday Times claiming that ‘preliminary conversations’ about a new extended contract have already taken place.
Many Newcastle fans have reacted with total disbelief to the exclusive, claiming it is just yet another PR move by Mike Ashley. The story aimed at making it appear Rafa Benitez would be interested in a longer deal, so that fans would believe Rafa now has some kind of trust/faith in Mike Ashley, so they should too.
Surely the reality has to be that Rafa Benitez will believe in any new signings when they actually happen.
To tie himself to Mike Ashley without any concrete proof that anything of substance has changed, would be quite incredible.
The Newcastle manager has gone very public after the two transfer windows of 2017 and said how he has been misled by Ashley and promises had been broken on transfers.
This month he asked for previously promised money to be now made available as a starting point and still no signings have been made before his two deadlines passed.
On Friday, Rafa Benitez said that Mike Ashley had told him in December that no takeover would be happening this month, or indeed in the foreseeable future, so waiting to see what would happen on that issue can hardly be used as an excuse/reason for Ashley not having allowed any signings before Rafa’s 20 January final deadline.
So where does that leave us?
Even though he has no track record of doing so, I’m guessing most fans would think there is far more chance of Rafa Benitez leaving before his current contract runs out, as opposed to signing a new one.
As for his current contract, The Guardian have commented on the clause that has been previously widely reported, the newspaper saying that a £6m compensation fee would be payable to Newcastle United/Mike Ashley if Rafa Benitez resigned before entering the final 12 months of his contract (the same arrangement said to exist the other way as well – Rafa entitled to £6m compensation (a year’s wages) if sacked).
When we get to this Summer (2018), the United boss will have 12 months left on his current deal, unless he signs a new one in the meantime…
That £6m compensation is surely a minimal factor anyway these days, Everton were reported to have offered £15m to Watford if they released Marco Silva, before having to settle for Fat Sam. Plus with around £200m spent in these last two transfer windows now by Everton, even a club like that would see £6m as relative peanuts in signing the key man (not that Rafa would ever have gone to Everton but the same principle applies with other ambitious clubs).
With only nine days until the transfer window closes, eternal optimists will be now dreaming of Rafa Benitez having signed a new contract and landed three quality signings with Mike Ashley’s full backing.
Meanwhile, back in the real world…
The Sunday Times:
‘Newcastle bosses are ready to open talks on extending Rafa Benitez’s contract at the club.
Benitez has less than 18 months remaining on his current £6 million-a-year deal and there has been repeated speculation about his future.
The former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager has felt undermined during the last two transfer windows and was seen as an important part of the failed attempted takeover of the club by Amanda Staveley.
However Benitez has been given assurances he will be allowed to sign three players this month, including his first choice striker, and talks about committing himself to the future are expected to follow.
There is a desire to extend the three-year deal that he signed in the close season of 2016, following a 10-game spell in charge that could not save Newcastle from relegation to the Championship.
The lines of communication have now, however, reopened between the owner Mike Ashley and Benitez, following the dismissal of Staveley’s final £250 million offer for the club.
Benitez has been more upbeat about the possibility of his first choice signings joining the club this month.
He refused to be committed on his long-term future when asked on Friday, but moves are in place to extend a deal that runs out in 2019 and the Sunday Times understands preliminary conversations have taken place.’