Newcastle in crisis: Rafa Benitez departs and fans threaten boycott against Mike Ashley
Jose Mourinho, Mikel Arteta and Avram Grant linked with the St James’ Park job
Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez will leave the job when his contract expires at the weekend.
In a tersely-worded statement issued on Monday, the club announced that the Spaniard, who steered the Magpies to 13th in the Premier League last season, will not be returning to St James’ Park.
“We have worked hard to extend Rafa’s contract over a significant period of time,” said a club statement. “However, it has not been - and will not be - possible to reach an agreement with Rafa and his representatives.”
The coaching staff of Paco de Míguel Moreno, Antonio Gomez Perez and Mikel Antia will also leave the club on 30 June.
As BBC Sport notes, there has been “speculation about his future” prior to the statement with recent rumours suggesting Benitez was ready to quit Newcastle to head to China and a £12m annual salary with Super League club Dalian Yifang.
Benitez assumed command in 2016, taking over from Steve McClaren, and although he couldn’t prevent their relegation in the ten remaining games of the 2015-2016 EPL campaign, he guided the Magpies to the Championship title in 2017 to secure an immediate return.
In Newcastle’s first season back in the top-flight they finished tenth, three places higher than last season, but according to Tuesday’s press reports, the real problem was the friction between Benitez and club owner Mike Ashley.
The Guardian claims that the former was unhappy with the club’s transfer policy, training facilities and the academy.
There has also been reports of a takeover by a UAE-based business group, but according to the Daily Express the proposed bid still hangs in the air.
With Benitez now gone and the takeover yet to happen, the Express says that uncertain times are set to continue at St James’ Park.
Among the names being mentioned as possible successors to the Spaniard are several that will strike dread into the hearts of Magpies’ fans.
Along with perennial underachievers David Moyes and Steve Bruce, the bookies are also listing Jose Mourinho, Mikel Arteta, Avram Grant and Gennaro Gattusso as contenders.
Meanwhile, former France head coach Laurent Blanc has allegedly told Ashley he is ready to take on one of the most unenviable managerial jobs in world football.
Next Newcastle manager betting odds
Prices according to Oddschecker, as of 25 June.
- Jose Mourinho: 6/1
- Mikel Arteta: 9/1
- Garry Monk: 9/1
- Avram Grant: 11/1
- David Moyes: 12/1
- Anthony Hudson: 12/1
- Chris Hughton: 14/1
- Steve Bruce: 20/1
- Eddie Howe: 25/1
- Mark Hughes: 25/1
- Gennaro Gattuso: 25/1
- Jurgen Klinsmann: 25/1
- Philip Neville: 25/1
- Patrick Vieira: 25/1
Reactions to Benitez’s departure
The Guardian: “Maybe one day Ashley will reflect on precisely how he let the best manager he ever had slip through his fingers.”
The Chronicle: “The news has left Newcastle fans furious that one of the game’s most decorated managers has been allowed to walk away from the club and for many, it was the final straw for them under the Mike Ashley regime.”
Pundit Gary Lineker on Twitter: “Awful news for the club and their fans.”
Former Newcastle striker turned pundit Alan Shearer: “A world class manager. A manager who performed so well in very difficult circumstances. A manager who understood the fans. Thanks and good luck @rafabenitezweb you were brilliant for the Toon. #SHAMBLES.”
The Daily Telegraph: “Many supporters have already pledged not to renew season tickets in protest at Benitez’s departure and the new campaign will begin in acrimonious mood.”
How Toon fans reacted on Twitter
The Shields Gazette reports that the Magpies’ faithful have not taken the news well of Benitez’s departure.
On social media much of the anger has been directed at owner Mike Ashley. Some supporters are threatening to boycott the club while Ashley remains in charge, others say they will not renew their season tickets or attend matches.