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Interview in China confirms contract conditions Rafa Benitez couldn’t accept from Mike Ashley

2 weeks ago
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Rafa Benitez has featured in a number of interviews in recent days/weeks.

This proliferation of media appearances has led to a lot of people wanting to use this as ‘proof’ that he is aiming for a swift return to management in Europe.

The league season ends in China next weekend but Rafa has been adamant that he intends to see out the remaining two seasons of his contract at Dalian Yifang.

A bit like players and possible transfers, until a deal is put in front of them to go to another club, it is only then when push comes to shove.

If Rafa Benitez was offered the Everton or West Ham job in the coming days/weeks, or indeed any other potentially attractive offer in Europe, would he take it? Again, we will only find out if an offer is made to him.

In his latest interview, Rafa has spoke to The Mail.

In it, the Spanish manager is happy to outline what happened at Newcastle United.

The interview bringing out the details that Rafa Benitez was offered an eight year contract by Mike Ashley BUT with the condition that he would not have the final say on transfers, having to accept transfers imposed on him, such as the £40m Joelinton deal which has been reported previously. Mike Ashley stating that Rafa had told him that the Brazilian was worth no more than £20m on what he had shown so far, yet for whatever reason Ashley insisting this £40m deal had to happen.

All a bit mad to think of a club employing such a top manager and paying him handsomely, yet then relying on the opinion of other less qualified people to decide which players should be bought.

Rafa Benitez offered to sign a one year extension instead, presumably on the understanding he would keep the final say on signings in that time, but Mike Ashley wouldn’t accept that.

Rafa saying that the reality was that at this meeting back in May, it was very clear Mike Ashley and his people had no interest in wanting him to stay.

Rafa Benitez speaking to The Mail:

“You cannot deny this is a big investment (in terms of the wages Dalian Yifang are paying him) but at the same time this is a project.

He had offers from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and another club in China when he left Newcastle last summer, but nothing in Europe. So he chose this one.

‘When I went to Liverpool — and it was a difficult decision to leave Valencia — it was because they were talking about five years, a project, build something.

‘When Aurelio De Laurentis, the Napoli chairman, came to see me, he flew at 6am on his private jet to see me in London. And if you analyse Napoli now, we signed Higuain, Albiol, Koulibaly, Jorginho, Mertens, Reina. We changed Napoli to build something.

‘Newcastle was another challenge. A massive club, a fanbase supporting the team, a whole city. But after a few months you could see it was a different vision. The takeover was not coming and we needed to think about other options.

‘This was the same idea, a chance to build something, a challenge. It was big project versus no project. The decision was easy.’

It was easy for a reason. Scroll back five months and the location was more mundane: the communal dining area of Mike Ashley’s London offices.

Benitez is sitting opposite Ashley trying to negotiate his future at Newcastle. Naturally, it had been cleared of people for privacy. Broad positions had been outlined. Ashley wanted Benitez to stay for eight years but also wanted to sign Joelinton and Allan Saint-Maximin.

Benitez felt he couldn’t commit under those circumstances so offered to sign a year’s extension. He said he would leave the room while they discussed their response. He went outside to a small room and sat on a plastic chair. Eventually he was summoned back in by Lee Charnley, Newcastle’s chief executive [but no agreement was ever going to be reached].

‘They [jobs] are coming up now but you cannot predict that will happen,’ says Benitez. ‘Normally Tottenham will be winning, Arsenal will be winning. Leicester are a good team, West Ham, Everton are good teams. So these teams that are likely to be in the top 10 and have good teams, they have managers. So you cannot predict that this thing will happen.

He clearly still aspires to return to Europe: ‘If I finish my contract here I will not be 70 years old. I will be 61. That is still young for a manager. It is not an issue.’

He says: ‘After the meeting in May, it was very clear, they don’t want us to stay [Ashley disputes this and agreement on this point is unlikely any time this century].’

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