Newcastle’s talks with Rafa Benitez are expected to last a number of weeks, as the Tyneside club hope to convince the Spaniard to oversee their Championship campaign next season.
The Spaniard met managing director Lee Charnley in the immediate aftermath of relegation from the Barclays Premier League, and although sources indicated their initial discussions had been “productive”, it is understood a speedy resolution is unlikely.
Press Association Sport understands that meeting was just the first of several scheduled over the next few days either side of Sunday’s final fixture against Tottenham at St James’ Park, and talks are expected to continue past the end of the season.
Newcastle certainly want the 56-year-old, who accepted a 10-game challenge to keep the club in the top flight back in March, to stay, although the three-year contract he signed includes a release clause which could now be activated by either party.
But while the hierarchy has been impressed with the Spaniard’s approach to his task, there is much detail to discuss from the club’s point of view as well as from that of Benitez, before any decision can be made.
Newcastle’s revenue will be drastically reduced by their fall from grace and the squad will have to be re-shaped accordingly, and Benitez’s blueprint for an immediate return to the Premier League and how it fits with whatever financial model owner Michael Ashley’s regime is to employ, will be key.
However, perhaps the most important factor in the entire dialogue will be the former Liverpool boss’ readiness or otherwise to take on the unaccustomed challenge of working in the Sky Bet Championship.
The Magpies staged something of a coup to land Benitez in the first place with his desire to return to the Premier League working in their favour.
But he will not be short of options this summer and he has already been linked with the current vacancies at Valencia and Everton, although sources on Merseyside have indicated that he is not among the early front-runners for the job vacated by compatriot Roberto Martinez on Thursday.
The ball remains largely in Benitez’s court, and while time is a factor with the club needing to prepare for a very different task to the one they hoped to be taking on, they will not press him unduly for an answer.