Rafa Benitez

Who are the favorites to replace Emery at Arsenal?

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Following news of Unai Emery’s firing as Arsenal manager, the club announced that its search for a new manager is already underway.

[ MORE: Unai Emery fired by Arsenal ]

With the Gunners set to face Norwich City in Premier League action on Sunday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com), interim manager Freddie Ljungberg is almost certain to take charge of at least one game before Emery’s successor takes the reins.

According to reports, Arsenal had previously contacted Jose Mourinho as a potential replacement for Emery, in the event they decided to make a change. Following Mourinho’s appointment as new Tottenham Hotspur boss a week ago, some figures at Arsenal are said to be upset at missing out on the Portuguese.

[ MORE: Emery: “We are better than we are showing” ]

Below is a look at the current bookmakers’ favorites to replace Emery at Arsenal, listed in the order of who is favorite.

  • Massimiliano Allegri (unemployed) – The clear-cut favorite, at almost even odds. The thinking here would be that Allegri is a proven winner (five Serie A titles and four Italian Cups at Juventus), but so was Emery when he was hired (three straight Europa League titles). He’s been out of a job since leaving Juve at the end of last season and has been linked with every major managerial job since then.
  • Nuno Espirito Santo (Wolverhampton Wanderers) – Unlike Allegri, Santo is a proven PL manager, only he comes without the same (read: any) winning pedigree of the Italian. After guiding Wolves to the EFL Championship title in 2018, he then took them to a seventh-place finish (and UEL qualification) in the PL last season.
  • Mikel Arteta (Manchester City, assistant) – Previously an Arsenal player (2011-2016) and now an assistant under Pep Guardiola, Arteta has been linked with a number of high-profile jobs in the last two years, including Arsenal back when Emery was hired. For him, it’ll likely hinge upon the succession plan at Man City: Guardiola never stays at one club for too long, so does Arteta believe he’ll be given a chance to take over?
  • Mauricio Pochettino (unemployed) – Pochettino has long since claimed he will never manage two clubs — Barcelona and Arsenal — out of principle after managing rivals Espanyol and Tottenham Hotspur. Alas, the bookmakers can’t help themselves from stirring the pot in north London.
  • Rafael Benitez  (Dalian Yifang) – Potentially a very sensible, if slightly underwhelming, option. Reports have him leaving China very soon, at the end of the Chinese Super League season. If nothing else, Benitez would get Arsenal defending and make them highly functional, if lacking the kind of flair that fans have come to expect.
  • Carlo Ancelotti (Napoli) – Somewhat out of left field, but potentially available for no compensation after a rough start to his second season at Napoli (seventh place, 15 points back of leaders Juve).
  • Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) – Forever tabbed a long-odds option, because the bookmakers need an English name to add to the list.

Newcastle owner blasts Rafa Benitez for ‘money first’ attitude

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Newcastle owner Mike Ashley ripped former manager Rafa Benitez for an apparent “money first” attitude that he believes doomed any chance of a contract extension this summer.

Benitez, a fan favorite thanks to his sparkling resume and excellent results with very little to work with, departed the club this summer for Chinese side Dalian Yifang after lengthy negotiations for an extensions with Newcastle came to an end with no agreement. The Spaniard had stuck with the club through a season in the Championship and guided the Magpies back to the Premier League, helping finish safely in 13th last season.

However, Ashley says that Benitez did not, in fact, care about the club but instead cared only about money. According to the Newcastle owner, Benitez knew he had leverage in negotiations and hoped to use that to his advantage. “Every time with Rafa it was impossible,” Ashley said in a lengthy interview with the Daily Mail. “There was always another thing, and the next thing, and the next thing. He asked for a 50 per cent pay increase and I think he did that because he knew it couldn’t work. And if we had agreed to that, I think it would have been something else. And everyone thinks we lost him because we wouldn’t pay a couple of quid more. He had the microphone and we didn’t.”

Ashley even goes as far as to say he brought up the idea of an eight-year contract with Benitez, comparing the club to his other financial investments. “At one stage they were talking about a one-year extension and I said my preference would be for an eight-year contract,” Ashley said. “That’s what I have to do in business when I invest. I have to take a medium to long-term view. I don’t worry about my takings on a Saturday. And we are now talking planning and strategy.”

The Sport Direct CEO went on to say that he believes the deal with the Chinese club was already finalized and that Benitez simply stayed in negotiations with Newcastle for appearance. “Looking back, though, it doesn’t really matter what Rafa asked for because I think the Chinese thing was done. He had talked about what he could earn in China previously. We were not even slightly surprised by that move.”

Finally, Ashley rambles about the possibility of a deal for Hoffenheim striker Joelinton, saying that the 22-year-old was Benitez’s number one target, but when it came time for the Spaniard to sign off on the deal, he balked and wanted his own situation sorted before securing the player.

The Magpies owner is a disliked figure among Newcastle fans, and it’s likely that very little from Ashley can be taken at face value. Ultimately, whether what Ashley is saying is true or not, Benitez knew he had leverage based on positive results and wished to be compensated fairly for not just his results at Newcastle, but also for the pedigree of a Champions League winning manager to stay at a mid-table Premier League side. Benitez often talked in the media about having a long-term vision for the club, and ultimately Ashley proved at the negotiating table he was not willing to pay the price for that long-term plan, even if it meant spending more than the club had previously planned to maintain Benitez’s services.

Newcastle quoted new, ‘far greater’ price to hire Steve Bruce

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The 2019-20 Premier League season kicks off in 28 days, and Newcastle United is a club without a manger.

[ TRANSFER RUMORS: Alderweireld to Roma, Haller to West Ham ]

After Rafa Benitez left the club in his rearview last month, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley began the search for Benitez’s successor. Benitez’s last day as Magpies boss was more than two weeks ago.

Steve Bruce, who’s currently in charge of EFL Championship side Sheffield Wednesday, has been reported as the leading candidate for a few days now, yet no announcement has been made; no official word from either side that negotiations have taken place.

Now, four weeks to the day before the new PL season kicks off, there are reports out of the UK stating Wednesday have demanded an increased fee from Newcastle to buy Bruce out of his existing contract. According to Sky Sports, the figure Wednesday quoted Newcastle is “far greater than originally expected.”

[ MORE: Atletico Madrid to legally contest Griezmann’s transfer to Barcelona ]

Given Ashley’s penny-pinching ways, no one in the soccer world would be surprised if he flat out refuses and walks away from the negotiating table, and starts the hiring search over from square one.

Just when Newcastle backed its way into a brilliant manager and an increasingly stable foundation for the club going forward — not to mention talks of a takeover that seemed very real at the time — they suddenly find themselves with none of the above, with many thanks to Ashley. Again.

Sam Allardyce confirms he turned down Newcastle managerial job

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British manager Sam Allardyce has publicly confirmed he was approached by Newcastle about the club’s managerial opening, and that he turned down the opportunity.

Allardyce told TalkSport that he did not even enter negotiations with the club, turning down the approach before speaking with owner Mike Ashley.

“I never got to talk to Mike,” Allardyce said on the radio program. “My agent contacted me, I had a think about it and a quick look at the situation and thanked them very much. It’s not for me. Maybe if it was the first time around I would have jumped at it.”

The 64-year-old managed Newcastle during the 2007/08 campaign, Ashley’s first hire as owner of the club. He didn’t make it a full season, parting ways with the club in January as the club ultimately finished in 12th position as Kevin Keegan took over. Allardyce said he doesn’t like to go back to a club a second time, which weighed heavily on his decision. “I was very flattered that I was considered but it’s that thing – don’t go back,” Allardyce said.

He is correct in that sentiment – Big Sam has never managed a club twice, taking charge of Newcastle, West Ham, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Everton, Blackburn, Bolton, Blackpool, and Notts County plus a spell with the England national team, but never managing a club for a second time.

Benitez releases statement upon expiration of Newcastle contract

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Rafa Benitez has bid adieu to the fans of Newcastle United after the expiration of his contract.

Newcastle announced last week that the beloved manager would not sign a new deal with the club after contract negotiations stalled over the past month.

[ MORE: Lampard, Chelsea take next step ]

While his tenure started with an inability to save the club’s Premier League status, Benitez’s performance with the Magpies over the past three seasons was nothing short of a success, leading the club back to the top flight before keeping it there despite owner Mike Ashley spending less money than the majority of fellow PL clubs.

Benitez says his hesitance wasn’t just about the length of a proposed deal. He’s frustrated that the club would not make a commitment to his plan of what was needed to grow to the next level.

“Unfortunately, it became increasingly clear to me that those at the top of the Club did not share the same vision.”

The relationship between Benitez and Ashley was almost always an uneasy one, and the former’s courtship of Newcastle’s supporter base was wholehearted. Once Benitez went to public with his pleas for more record spending after the Miguel Almiron signing — which will probably be a club record with incentives — it started to feel like there was more to the story regarding hopes of a new deal.