Rafa Benitez is once again making daily headlines.
After a summer of disappointment in the transfer market, the United boss broke his silence this week.
Just as was the case a year ago, Rafa waited until the training camp in Ireland to expose just how badly he had been let down.
Last summer it was Mike Ashley’s broken promises that the manager repeatedly referred to, as days and weeks went by without any ambition shown on transfers.
This time Rafa is making clear that there hasn’t even been any promises made, no suggestion from the NUFC owner that he is going to support his manager in any way.
So why is Rafa Benitez still here then?
Well, this summer’s transfer window isn’t exactly a new experience.
Back in summer 2016, Rafa’s opening transfer window at St James Park, there was relative harmony. The manager allowed to spend over £50m on players and Mike Ashley seeing Benitez produce a £40m profit on transfers in and out.
Whilst there was that large profit in the transfer market, it was still a significant and realistic amount of spending that the NUFC owner allowed. However, there were special circumstances, for the second time in seven Premier League seasons, Ashley had brought about a relegation, he was desperate. He needed the club to be back in the Premier League for the worldwide TV exposure for Sports Direct and the rest of his business empire, as well of course to see the return of PL level revenues.
Once though Rafa Benitez had built a squad that looked capable of getting promotion back to the promised land, that was that.
January 2017, Rafa was blocked from making any signings whatsoever. Not a penny allowed to help make sure of promotion, or to start building towards life back in the Premier League.
Summer 2017, Rafa Benitez ended the window by declaring that he couldn’t even compete with Huddersfield and Brighton for new signings on either wages or transfer fees. The other two promoted clubs with net spending at least three times higher than Newcastle.
January 2018, Newcastle United deep in relegation trouble. Despite that, the manager wasn’t allowed to buy a single player. Instead, Rafa Benitez had to battle on with only loan signings and having desperately wanted a new striker, he had to settle for a last day of the window deal for Islam Slimani who Rafa knew was already injured when he arrived.
Summer 2018, just hit the repeat button. With now three weeks to go until transfer deadline day, Newcastle United are in profit on transfers having signed a free transfer, a loan player, and £4m Martin Dubravka. Even Ashley didn’t go so far as to block the agreed £4m price tag signing of a keeper who already is worth X number of times what NUFC paid for him.
Rafa Benitez laid it on the line this week, saying that to buy players he has to first sell others. Quite literally he has been allowed nothing to spend.
Once again many ask the question…So why is Rafa Benitez still here then?
The follow up to that being, when you are treated so badly and undermined by the club’s owner, why would you stick around? Rafa could allegedly have taken the West Ham job, Pellegrini has gone in and already has an £85m net spend so far.
Well, I think it is a number of factors.
Rafa has repeatedly said how he loves the fans, the city, the coaching staff, the playing squad. Basically he likes the people and what the club is really all about, a bit like Liverpool with the working class roots and so on.
No doubt a small part of him also thinks that just maybe there will be a miracle and somebody with offer £100m+ more than the club is worth, new owners unleashing that potential which will always be there and which the manager often talks about.
However, the biggest reason why Rafa Benitez hasn’t walked away is that he takes a pride in his job.
To take on an all but certain to be relegated Newcastle United only two months after leaving Real Madrid, was seen by most as the equivalent of putting your head in the lion’s mouth. It might have a positive outcome but more than likely you could lose everything.
Rafa Benitez keeps fighting and saying what should happen to make Newcastle a normal club but I think from some way out he has accepted that with Mike Ashley here, he is wasting his time really.
However, he is not going to walk away because when he walks away next summer, he wants to look back and say that he has done everything he can, in all but impossible circumstances.
He wants to be able to look the fans in the eye and say he gave it everything he had.
Mike Ashley would absolutely love it if Rafa walked away, straight away getting his PR goons to feed their friends at Sky Sports and elsewhere in the media with insiduous suggestions that the manager had betrayed the fans and club.
The same happened with Kevin Keegan but he proved when winning his £2m constructive dismissal claim that Mike Ashley and his minions had lied to him.
Mike Ashley isn’t even making promises now with fingers crossed behind his back and Rafa knows the score, but he will give it everything for these next 10 months and then walk away with his conscience clear.