Rafa And Ashley - Unhappy Bed-Fellows

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Owner Mike Ashley is planning ahead and there were fresh claims on Sunday morning that he is preparing to take the club off the market. It now looks increasingly likely Benitez will have no choice but to work with the Sports Direct magnate next season if he decides to stay.

The Sunday Sun revealed earlier this month that Ashley was preparing to communicate his next steps on the club and he has grown frustrated with the takeover process, having failed to raise a buyer for his preferred price of nearly £300million. It was claimed on Sunday he invested a six figure fee in getting the club ‘sale ready’ before Christmas but ‘preferred bidder’ Peter Kenyon could not raise the funds to complete the deal.

That means all eyes are on Benitez now. The Spaniard has delayed negotiations between himself and managing director Lee Charnley until the Magpies have been assured their Premier League place for next season.

The club do have a long-term contract offer on the table for Benitez but he wants in-depth discussions on a number of issues including the club’s commitment to improving the Academy and training ground.

However, Benitez is understood to have a specific eye on the next few transfer windows.

The former Liverpool chief had no issues with his first window when he was afforded full control and a flexible cheque book to bring in the likes of Dwight Gayle, Matt Ritchie, Ciaran Clark, Mo Diame and Matz Sels.

 

However, funds were surprisingly held back in January 2017 and Benitez was told he had to wait for TV money to set in the next summer - resulting in budget signings such as Javier Manquillo and Joselu.

Loan signings were then needed in January 2018 as Kenedy, Martin Dubravka and Islam Slimani came in and money seemed in short supply again.

Last summer was a major struggle for Benitez as he struggled to prise £16.5million to sign Salomon Rondon permanently and relied on a free transfer arrival in Ki and bargain buys such as Fabian Schar.

Ashley may now argue that Newcastle are committed in the transfer market after signing Miguel Almiron for £16million in January.

Yet Benitez wants to see a different system when it comes to spending money - and wants to know exactly how much he has to spend going forward.