Louise Taylor on 21 September 2018
Rafael Benítez has denied he is in a marriage of convenience with Newcastle but concedes that, although his love for the club endures, the partnership is fast approaching breaking point.
As Newcastle headed to Crystal Palace, where Benítez hopes to secure his first win of the season on Saturday, Jamie Carragher used a newspaper column to suggest his former Liverpool manager will leave Tyneside at the end of the season.
Benítez had hoped to be challenging for a place in the top six but Mike Ashley’s transfer parsimony prompted the manager to state that “staying up” this season would represent a “great achievement”.
Considering Benítez’s contract ends next summer and he has declined to sign a new deal, the future seems opaque - particularly as Newcastle’s manager describes last season’s 10th-place finish as a “miracle”.
On Friday he made it clear the contract situation would not be revisited until the end of the January transfer window at the earliest. “We have to go to January and see what we do,” Benítez said. “After that it will be easier to know where we are. When I first decided to stay my view was very clear: to compete in the top 10. That is not the case now. So we have to review things. It’s obvious for everyone that we have to do things in another way.”
Even so, Benítez has never given the remotest impression of regarding Newcastle as a highly paid marriage of convenience. The sense is he has stayed this long in the hope of the club being taken over or Ashley undergoing a dramatic change of heart and relaxing the purse strings.
“I’m really pleased here,” Benítez said. “I like the city, I like the atmosphere and the fans and everything. The potential of the club is massive.”
His problem is that, while other teams have spent lavishly, Newcastle’s record transfer fee remains the £16.8m paid for Michael Owen by Ashley’s boardroom predecessors in 2005. “You cannot find an offensive player who can make the difference for less than £20m now,” said Benítez. “We have good players and a good team which is strong if we stick together but we do not have these kinds of players. Players who can make a difference, can win games on their own, are more expensive.”