Talk to anyone who knows anything about football and the name Rafa Benitez is universally well respected. The news that he will be leaving Newcastle after the club and managers representatives failed to reach an agreement to extend his contract, has stunned Tyneside.
It is with disappointment that we announce manager Rafael Benítez will leave Newcastle United upon the expiry of his contract on 30th June 2019.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) June 24, 2019
Benitez has done a magnificent job in the most difficult of circumstances, with an owner that wants to sell and is unwilling to spend, which has virtually condemned the club to a yearly dogfight. Newcastle have been a sleeping giant for years, waiting for a passionate investor that can see the potential in a club which has a solid and loyal fan base.
Make no mistake, Benitez has left because he was tired of making do and fighting to survive in the premiership every season. He wanted assurances that he could get the investment to make his side contenders, something he was more than capable of achieving.
The tensions between manager and owner have grown over the last few seasons and are reminiscent of the Spaniards famous quote regarding transfer activity whilst at Valencia,
“ I hoped for a sofa and they bought me a lamp”
He said dryly.
He still has an eye for talent and can motivate players to get results that look extremely unlikely on paper. He has a vast array of experience in the domestic league and also on a European stage, so he won’t be out of work for long. It was only last year, before Unai Emery was appointed as Arsenal coach, that I suggested two candidates for the post.
The first was Julian Nagelsmann of Hoffenheim because he has an excellent record of developing youth players and the second was Rafa Benitez for his tactical brilliance, passion and knowledge. I don’t know if he was even considered but he should have been.
It may have been a case of Arsenal football club being preoccupied looking for weeds, whilst ignoring the flowers, why else would his services be overlooked. I’m not advocating Arsenal sack Emery, who has a board equally reluctant to splash the cash, nor am I saying Benitez would have been any better off in North London but he should have been on the list and was justifiably a candidate for the role.
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
— Alan Shearer (@alanshearer) June 24, 2019
Benitez would have known the scale of the job and as he has shown at Newcastle, he isn’t scared of rolling his sleeves up and getting his hands dirty. If he was that type of glory hunting, sunny days, type of manager, he would have quit when he had the chance, when Newcastle were relegated in 2016.
He didn’t, he stayed loyal and took them back up immediately on a shoe string and a prayer. Benitez would have been perfect for Arsenal and although he doesn’t have the same kudos as Guardiola or Klopp in some quarters, he just needed the trust and support to be in that league.
Arsenal missed a trick, the Spaniard was right under their noses and Gazidis last act as CEO was to fool everyone that a long and thorough selection process had taken place to find Arsenal’s new coach, whereas the reality was that there weren’t many takers.
Those inside football already knew of the financial restrictions and the prospect of following Wenger did nothing to sell the job. It required a certain mentality and self belief. It needed a wise head and a wealth of experience from the various leagues in world football but also the premier league.
Rafa Benitez is one of the best managers of all time. He stayed with us in the Championship. It would extremely hard to find a manager of his caliber doing that. #NUFC were/are lucky to have him. Rafa did more for the club than just on the pitch. Thank you. #RafaAppreciationWeek pic.twitter.com/fkSdJSJkl6
— Robert Tennyson (@Tenno98) June 23, 2019
Some will say that Benitez has a group of expensive flops but the Spaniard was never fully permitted to execute his plans, with owner Mike Ashley seemingly more interested with off loading the club to the highest bidder as he prostituted the club for a sale.
The few purchases under Benitez have been shrewd, he has also had to beg, borrow and steal to keep his head above water. Ayoze Pérez was a real find, he loaned Kenedy and Rondón and beat Arsenal to the signature of Miguel Almiron, who showed genuine promise.
Newcastle need to get more goals and concede less, they need invention and ingenuity which can only be obtained in the transfer window, Ashley was less than keen. This will all sound very familiar to Arsenal fans and certainly reinforces a case for approaching the outgoing Newcastle boss. That lack of commitment was the last straw for Benitez who looked emotionally drained and tired from the battle fatigue at the end of last season.
His departure has seen a dramatic twist at the bookies regarding the club’s survival status. Originally priced at 1/10 to retain their Premier League status by Betway, they are now 10/3 to be relegated, and are tragically 14/1, from 25/1, to end up at the bottom of the division.
If Jose Mourinho was to take the Newcastle United job then he would want to bring Marco Materazzi with him as part of his backroom staff.#NUFC fans, is Mourinho someone you would like to take charge..? pic.twitter.com/vgDMrXTUkl
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) June 24, 2019
Benitez was their ace in the hole but with him gone, one understands the fans apathy and the bookmakers pessimism.