Obviously none of us could have foreseen what an eventual mess it would turn out to be…but summer 2017 saw a very quick end of season conclusion to Mike Ashley and Rafa Benitez’ post-campaign discussions.
Only 72 hours after the season ended with a win over Barnsley securing the Championship title, an official Newcastle United statement was released which settled any nerves amongst fans (until they learnt different…).
That statement on 10 May 2017 (see below), included quotes from both owner and manager, pointing to agreement having been reached on how the club was going to progress in the next 12 months.
Of course things didn’t end up going quite as smoothly as initially anticipated, with Rafa Benitez very quickly calling ‘foul’ once the summer transfer window was properly underway, and Mike Ashley’s promises of ‘every penny’ didn’t quite work out as he had been led to believe.
Another year older and wiser, Rafa Benitez was never going to put his name to any joint official statement purely on the strength of Mike Ashley’s verbal promises.
So since Premier League safety was assured some five weeks ago, there was the onset of talks between the club and Rafa’s representatives on reaching agreement on the manager committing to an extended contract at NUFC. Just how active those talks remain now is anybody’s guess but one thing for sure, there has been no positive agreed outcome.
So eight days ago, when the latest official Newcastle United statement was released, it was a unilateral one.
Rather than the joint one with Rafa that was released only 72 hours after the end of the 2016/17 season, this latest was delivered within an hour of the 2017/18 season closing.
Little doubt that Mike Ashley would have loved this one to have also been a joint one with Rafa Benitez but with clearly agreement being nowhere close, he went alone.
The promise of once again ‘every penny’ was surely calculated by Mike Ashley and his minions to irritate Rafa, rather than encourage him that the owner was genuine in his supposed commitment.
Very difficult to see any positive spin when it came to Ashley’s decision to do this. Instead, the owner simply has to pick up the phone to Rafa Benitez, or even better make the effort to meet up with the Spaniard and look him in the eye and make a proper commitment.
At any time Mike Ashley could bring this to a successful conclusion rather than playing endless PR games with the main who has saved his bacon by getting instant promotion and a top half Premier League finish.
The past signs aren’t good when it comes to Mike Ashley backing down on anything but this is one deal where surely even he can see he has to bend and meet the manager’s demands for realistic backing in the transfer market, with just as importantly the free rein to do with any transfer budget as he sees fit.
13 May 2018 – Official Newcastle United Statement:
Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has thanked Rafa Benítez, the players and the club’s supporters following the club’s tenth-place finish in the Premier League.
The Magpies secured a place in the top half with a 3-0 victory over Chelsea at St. James’ Park on Sunday.
The owner said:
“I would like to thank Rafa Benitez for his magnificent achievement this season.
“I would also like to applaud the players, led fantastically by the captain Jamaal Lascelles.
“On many occasions throughout the season they have been described as a Championship side, which I personally consider to be derogatory.
“Rafa, as always, has my full support, and contrary to some media reports that portray me as a pantomime villain, I will continue to ensure that every penny generated by the club is available to him.
“I hope very much that Rafa will remain at Newcastle United.
“Finally, I would like to thank the fans for their unrivalled support of Rafa and the team throughout the season.”
10 May 2017 – Official Newcastle United Statement:
‘Newcastle United can confirm that a meeting has taken place between the club’s owner, Mike Ashley, managing director, Lee Charnley, and manager, Rafa Benítez.
It was agreed by all parties that the meeting was very positive and constructive.
Mike again congratulated Rafa and his team on gaining promotion to the Premier League as champions.
Plans for next season were discussed, including the purchase and loan of players to add to the squad in readiness for the Premier League season.
Speaking after the meeting, Mike Ashley said:
“I’ve confirmed to Rafa and Lee that they can have every last penny that the club generates through promotion, player sales and other means in order to build for next season.”
Manager Rafa Benítez added:
“I’m pleased with how the meeting went and the positive approach we are all taking together to build on what we have started this season.
“There will be challenges ahead of course, the summer will not be easy, but the hard work has been going on for some time and we can now continue positively with the development of the squad ahead of the start of the new season.
“I wish fans an enjoyable summer!”