Benitez set for crunch future talks
Manager Rafael Benitez is due to meet Newcastle owner Mike Ashley over the next 48 hours in a bid to decide on his future.
Benitez is expected to sit down with Ashley and managing director Lee Charnley in London as the two parties attempt to agree a contract extension for the man who has guided the Magpies back to the Premier League and kept them there for two seasons.
There was no comment from Newcastle on the talks on Thursday with officials eager for negotiations to be conducted away from the public eye.
Benitez, who has the vocal backing of the club’s fans, has indicated his willingness to stay but only if the club shares his vision for the way forward.
For their part, the Magpies are keen to retain the services of a man who has enhanced an already-impressive reputation during his time to date on Tyneside, but while they do not currently have a Plan B, they will not break the bank to do so.
It remains to be seen how far the gap between what the 59-year-old Spaniard wants and what the club are prepared to give him can be closed, although the debate is about far more than money.
Benitez, whose £6million annual salary is more than competitive, is more concerned about the financial support he would like to fund a long-term project, although his plan to invest in the club’s training ground and Academy is not viewed as the immediate priority by the hierarchy.
He is keen to to be able to compete on a more equal basis in the transfer market in terms of both fees and wages to allow him to target regular top-10 finishes rather than simply fighting for survival each year.
Ashley’s decision to sanction a January swoop for Paraguay international Miguel Almiron, in a deal which could eventually amount to a club record £21million, suggested Benitez’s pleas were being heard, and it has since emerged that he can expect around £100million, plus whatever he can generate, to spend over the next two transfer windows.