Once the relegation/safety issue was put to bed, Newcastle fans no longer had a diversion keeping them from the worries surrounding Rafa Benitez when having to deal with Mike Ashley.
With a month passing since then and Rafa now saying still next to no progress on any agreement to extend his stay, it is sadly going along with most of our expectations, if not our hopes.
Each of the last three transfer windows, the Newcastle manager has gone public with his unhappiness at how the club’s owner has let him down with broken ‘promises’.
So it would have been a major surprise, sadly, if Mike Ashley had quickly sorted out Rafa’s concerns once Premier League safety was reached.
Rafa Benitez was satisfied last summer when Mike Ashley told him ‘every penny’ would be made available to him in the transfer window, only to then discover that the reality wasn’t what he had expected.
Whilst Brighton and Huddersfield made some of this season’s Premier League available up front to try and help ensure survival, clearly Mike Ashley did nothing of the sort.
One year on and clearly Mike Ashley isn’t promising ‘every penny’ to Rafa Benitez this time.
Luke Edwards in The Telegraph is normally pretty well informed and in his latest excellent piece [short extract below], he has given an informed overview of the situation.
With the club expected to make a profit of somewhere between £60m and £80m this season, he says that his understanding is that Rafa Benitez has not been offered that amount to use in the transfer market. Not quite ‘every penny’.
For me, the only/main hope of major change, was if there had been quick agreement between Ashley and Rafa on what happened next.
With such a public stand-off now, can we really expect Mike Ashley to now move significantly closer to what the manager wants/needs? No, me neither.
Likewise, no way is Rafa Benitez going to tie himself to the owner with an extended contract, if he is still going to be messed about.
Personally, I don’t see Rafa walking away.
Instead, I think we will end up with some unsatisfactory third option, where the manager will carry on and complete the third and final year of his contract, with some increased spending power but nowhere near what he was asking for to take the club forward.
I don’t think Mike Ashley will really care if this happens, yes he would rather tie down Rafa to a longer deal, but he has stumbled along season by season for 11 years, trying to survive in the Premier League with as small a spend on transfers as he thinks he can get away with, so what’s the problem with doing this for a twelfth season, then seeing where we are at in 12 months time.
Obviously, this is yet again harming the long-term prospects of the club but Mike Ashley doesn’t care about that.
It is all live for today and get whatever benefits he can from the club while he can, the health of NUFC in the future isn’t any concern of his.
Ashley happy to wait and see whether anybody might be daft enough to come along and pay the £100m+ over price tag he has put on the club.
If he isn’t going to change his approach when he has Rafa Benitez to look after the club, then clearly it is never going to happen.
Luke Edwards writing in The Telegraph:
‘Benitez…wants to know he will be given the resources to build a team over the next three years that is at least able to challenge the dominance of English football’s Big Six. Benitez does not want to spend billions, but he wants a recruitment budget that is bigger than last year’s.
On top of that, he wants to make sure that, when he is told how much money there is to spend, those figures are set in stone rather than scribbled on a white board and conveniently wiped away and forgotten when it suits the agenda of others.
He wants to know why, if the club is expected to make a profit of between £60- 80m after one year in the Premier League, is all that money not being made available to him to strengthen the squad?
At the moment, Telegraph Sport understands the “pot of cash” that has been offered to Benitez is not at that level.’