Ashley 'Shocked'?

Last updated : 29 July 2019 By Footy Mad - Editor

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley says Rafa Benitez took the "soft option" by moving to China, and was shocked by the reaction to Steve Bruce's appointment, while also saying he could now own the club forever.

Let's go back to the Bruce appointment ... after offering the job to ex-Mackem Big Sam, then another ex-Mackem Steve Bruce tok it ... I think it was obvious what Ashley had in mind.

Newcastle United is his toy so "why not have some fun with the fans"?

Benitez left St James' Park after failing to agree a new contract - and Ashley claims his preference was to tie him down to an eight-year deal - but he promptly agreed a reported £12million-a-year contract with Dalian Yifang.

Ashley said it was impossible for Newcastle to have kept Benitez because of the demands he made as his deal expired.

"If you come out and say the things he did you would think it was football club first, Rafa second, money third. I'd say it was money first, Rafa, then the club last," Ashley told the Daily Mail.

"He took the totally soft option, took the money and went to China. That disappoints me.

"If he'd gone back to Real Madrid, or a top-six club in the Premier League, I get it, but it was about money and all he had to do was say that from the beginning.

"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. We couldn't have done any more.

"He had talked about what he could earn in China previously. We were not even slightly surprised by that move."

Upon his appointment in Dalian in early July, however, Benitez said: "I have had offers of greater financial significance during my career, but they weren't the project I was looking for."