According to a report by Newcastle Chronicle chief writer Lee Ryder, Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is “unlikely” to increase the club’s transfer budget to convince Rafa Benitez to stay on as manager past this season.
Benitez’s contract expires at the end of the current campaign, and with just two matches remaining, the two parties are yet to agree to an extension for the Spaniard. Benitez has publicly stated his ultimate goal is to get assurances from the club to guarantee financial ambition moving forward, but Ashley appears unmoved.
The 59-year-old boss, formerly in charge of Real Madrid, Chelsea, and Napoli, joined Newcastle in 2016 and stuck with the club through a season in the Championship, returning them to Premier League status. He is reportedly the club’s first and foremost offseason priority, but according to this recent report, he is not important enough to Ashely to open the coffers, instead instructing managing director Lee Charnley to “live within his means.”
Charnley is reportedly taking charge of talks with Benitez while Ashley sits in the peripheral, but it is ultimately Ashley who will approve or deny Benitez’s wishes. The manager wants to take the club from relegation battles to a fight for a European place, but does not see that happening without improved financial backing, including both transfer funds and wages.
“I have been trying to win titles everywhere, in different countries. We have to have a team who can compete,” Benitez said after Newcastle topped Leicester City two weeks ago. “This city, the club has potential. It’s massive. I’m not looking to spend 200 million pounds, but doing the right things. You can do everything right with your tactics but the other team has one player that can make the difference. You would have to pay 30 million pounds to buy a Leicester player.”
According to Ryder’s report, the contract talks have indeed “stalled” over the last few days, but there is still plenty of communication and by no means have the discussions come to a halt.
The standoff continues, and appears it will go right down to the wire. It is entirely possible Newcastle could lose its valuable manager unless Ashley budges and bows to the Spaniard’s wishes. If he doesn’t and Benitez leaves, it could strain an already strenuous relationship between Ashley and the Newcastle faithful.