Rafa Benitez takes charge of the last match of his current Newcastle United contract against his old club Liverpool.
Five matches of the season remain and once the final whistle goes at Craven Cottage on Sunday 12 May, nobody knows what will happen.
Rafa Benitez made clear on Saturday when interviewed by Sky Sports, that whilst talks had taken place, agreement was anything but close on Mike Ashley doing enough to convince Rafa that anything of substance had changed and he should stay.
For starters, obviously the manager’s staff will leave as well.
More worryingly, a number of key players will surely follow Rafa Benitez out of the door.
The NUFC boss has been the glue that has just about kept this club together these past three seasons, especially since promotion.
A manager leaving at most clubs wouldn’t be seen as so disastrous but if Rafa did leave, then it would really signal to Newcastle’s better players, what is the point of sticking around any longer?
I have no doubt that most/all of them are genuine when they say they love playing for Newcastle and the fans but if a club’s owner makes clear there is no ambition, nobody can blame them for thinking it is time to go elsewhere.
These are four Newcastle players who I think would almost certainly leave if Rafa Benitez walks:
The most obvious, as he is only on loan and isn't a Newcastle player anyway.
Pivotal to Newcastle’s (hopefully) imminent survival being confirmed, the loan striker is one of the key factors in whether Rafa Benitez stays or goes anyway.
If Mike Ashley refuses to let the manager pay £16,5m for a striker only because Rondon turns 30 in September, then no wonder Rafa would think he is wasting his time. With 31 PL goals scored, Rondon has scored nine and got five assists, as well as his excellent all round play, £16.5m is more than a fair price these days.
If Ashley refuses to allow Rafa to buy the West Brom striker, then it is 100% impossible to imagine a scenario where the owner would approve such a move if he has brought another Pardew-like stooge in.
The keeper has only been at Newcastle for 14 months but has made a massive impression.
His agents have already revealed that a number of clubs in England and abroad, including clubs in the top grouping of the Premier League have registered an interest.
We wonder if it is his agent making all of the noise, as the goalkeeper says he is happy at Newcastle under Rafa's reign.
With Rafa Benitez still here I can see Dubravka giving at least one more season but if not, I think he could well go. After a career in the minor leagues of Slovakia, Denmark and the Czech Republic, aged 30 he will want to make the most of his late arrival at the top level.
The Newcastle United captain turns 26 in November. Not necessarily playing at quite the level of last season, in terms of consistency, but is leadership is still definitely a key factor in Newcastle’s very good defensive record.
It might not be a top six club but depending on which other players also move, I could see the likes of a Leicester or Everton convincing Jamaal Lascelles to move on if Benitez was no longer giving players and fans hope of NUFC moving on.
A player who divides fans but who has been a consistent pick for this manager.
Has indicated in any number of interviews that one day he wants to play in La Liga. He also turns 26 this year (July) and after five years at Newcastle he would be moving on.
It might not be Barcelona or Real Madrid…but a mid-table La Liga club would give him the opportunity and the striker would take it, if Rafa was no longer around.
Conversely, if Rafa Benitez doesn’t agree an extension, there could be other Newcastle players staying on who might otherwise have left.
The biggest name would be Jonjo Shelvey.
He is surely destined to be on his way as Rafa Benitez clearly sees him as nowhere near first choice now. However, if the Spaniard left then very easy to see Shelvey being retained and potentially being a key player back in the first team, whoever comes in as manager.
A more surprising one could be Jack Colback. He has been one of Forest’s best players this season after being totally sidelined by Rafa Benitez. With a year still left on his contract, never say never if the owner forces Rafa Benitez out.
The same could be said of the other players currently out on loan as well, if Rafa Benitez leaves then that will clearly signal no real ambition in the transfer market and as we have seen so many times in the past under Ashley, we would see numerous headlines of ‘set to get a second chance’ and ‘new manager wants to have a look at his whole squad before deciding who goes/stays’, with players such as Aarons, Lazaar and Saivet potentially seeing themselves back in the squad. Whilst Dwight Gayle would surely be retained as well.
What should happen with Rafa Benitez is so obvious to all but Mike Ashley.
If Rafa stays then key players would also stay and there would be the chance of building something decent. However, if Rafa goes it is all too predictable how things would fall apart.