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Rafa Benitez turns down chance to attack Mike Ashley – Interesting

5 months ago
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Rafa Benitez has had a low profile since the season ended earlier this month.

The much reported London meeting with Mike Ashley was two weeks ago today but nothing heard from the main man (Rafa) since then.

However, today the manager was happy to speak to the media.

Back in Spain, no surprise that the NUFC manager is in his hometown ahead of it hosting the Champions League final. Especially with the added angle of it being his former club (Liverpool) and another Premier League club.

Rafa Benitez in much demand from both English and Spanish media.

Talking to Sky Sports, Rafa spoke at length about Saturday’s final and thinks that the key to it could rest on what Mauricio Pochettino decides with Harry Kane who is just back from injury. Whether  to start or use him as an impact sub.

As to how he sees the game panning out, predictably he was very much into considering the tactics, no doubt imagining  what he would do if managing one of the two teams:

“Liverpool will try to start with intensity from the first minute, and Tottenham will try to manage it. It depends if Pochettino plays four at the back or five and whether they will have more options to keep the ball.

“We will see how Tottenham manage this pressure.

“If they can keep the ball they are quite dangerous with players between the lines.

“But if Tottenham are attacking high…Liverpool are quite dangerous also on the counter-attack.”

However, when the Sky Sports interviewer switched to Newcastle United, so did Rafa Benitez (switch).

Rafa not wanting to say anything and even when pressed further on his contract situation and the takeover talk, the Newcastle manager politely refused to say anything.

If you forget about the takeover angle and restrict your thoughts to Rafa’s contract situation and the circumstances surrounding it, you would have to say it is pretty remarkable that the manager chose to say nothing.

The club’s owner allowing it to get to this stage without bending to the manager’s ambitions that would convince Rafa to sign a contract extension, this being  the 15th day of the summer transfer window and seemingly zero urgency shown by Mike Ashley in the transfer market. Especially in relation to Salomon Rondon who has been allowed to end his loan spell with so far no attempt to sign him permanently.

Again, leaving aside the takeover speculation, we have seen Rafa Benitez repeatedly in the past talk of the absolute necessity to try and get transfer targets secured early. Indeed in advance of this summer 2019 window, the manager was once again saying that time was of the essence in terms of sorting his own situation/contract out, so that he and the club could get on with attacking the transfer window.

Yet we get to this point and rather than using today as a perfect opportunity to attack Mike Ashley for failing to show urgency and ambition, instead Rafa Benitez looked so relaxed and (almost) without a care in the world.

I can’t help thinking that the only possible reason to explain this, is that Rafa is in the loop where the NUFC takeover debate is concerned and is confident and/or been assured that there is going to be a seismic change, in terms of both ownership and ambition at the club.

In fact rather than the statements (see below) from the Bin Zayed Group and media coverage of the potential buyout, it is thinks like Rafa Benitez’ behaviour that really convinces me that better times could be around the corner for himself and the Newcastle fans.

The thing is, I/we know nothing really about these potential buyers of the club, apart from we have read/heard in the past three or four days or so. There are so many chancers around and so the reality is that you have little to go on, they don’t have a track record with Newcastle United, or indeed a track record at other football clubs – certainly not in Europe.

However, we have been lucky enough to have been able to observe Rafa Benitez at close quarters for over three years and we know what pushes his buttons. We have seen him getting angry and frustrated around transfer windows and we have regularly heard him call out the NUFC owner about ‘broken promises’ and the failure to properly support him (Rafa) in the transfer market.

We can see that the manager’s behaviour is very different at the moment, which doesn’t really fit in with the idea that on 16 May he had a face to face meeting to purely talk about the contract situation, then to be sitting here with seemingly no progress on it since then and the clock counting down.

Obviously we can’t go on forever like this and at some point, no matter who is or who isn’t going to be owning the club once next season kicks off, the manager needs to have a new deal in place and get on with buying the players the club needs.

However, in the meantime, a bit like Rafa Benitez I am feeling relatively relaxed. Though the sooner a change of ownership is confirmed and Rafa Benitez is getting stuck into a long-term NUFC project, it will take things to a whole different level.

The two statements (so far…) from Bin Zayed Group MD Midhat Kidwai, this one on Wednesday 29 May and below from Monday 27 May:

“In consideration of the numerous speculations in regards to the timelines of the acquisition of Newcastle United Football Club by Bin Zayed Group, we feel the need to issue this statement.

“Terms have been agreed between us and Mike Ashley; these terms have been reflected in a document, signed by both parties, which has been forwarded to the Premier League.

“The proof of funds statement was forwarded to Mike Ashley’s lawyers on 17 April 2019.

“The so called fit-and-proper Premier League process is a standard procedure which will take time, and we are doing all we can to assist the Premier League during this process.

“We feel the need to clarify this point in order for the fans and the general public to understand the timelines.”

The statement from Midhat Kidwai on Monday 27 May 2019:

“In response to numerous reports in the world media this morning, we would like to comment as follows.

“We can confirm the representatives of his Highness Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan are in discussions with Mike Ashley and his team about the proposed acquisition of Newcastle United Football Club.

“We view it as an honour to have the opportunity to build on the strong support, history and tradition of the club.

“We have agreed terms and are working hard to complete the transaction at the earliest opportunity.

“Best Regards, Midhat Kidwai, Group Managing Director, Bin Zayed Group.”

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