Rafa Benitez has had what are being described as ‘productive’ initial talks with Newcastle’s board as they try to persuade him to stay.
Less than 24 hours after the Magpies were relegated after derby rivals Sunderland won 3-0 against Everton, Benitez sat down with managing director Lee Charnley at the club’s Darsley Park training headquarters.
Sources on Tyneside have revealed the tone of the discussions was positive, although there is a long way to go before fans discover whether or not the man they want to remain at the helm will do so.
It was no secret that the three-year contract Benitez signed in March included a release clause should he not manage to preserve the club’s top-flight status in the final 10 games of the current season, and he is now being linked with jobs elsewhere, including the position at Everton after Roberto Martinez’s exit on Thursday.
However, there is an appetite from the club to retain the services of a manager and the Newcastle Fans’ Forum issued a direct plea to the former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss as he prepared for what could yet prove to be his final match at the helm, Tottenham’s visit to St James’ Park on Sunday.
A statement said: “Message to Rafa Benitez – whilst we fully accept that the short -term prospect of life in the Championship may not be as appealing as other offers that you may be presented with, we can certainly promise you that the potential rewards of the longer term would exceed any position that you consider.”
The statement continued: “The reason for this statement is to make it perfectly clear that we want every possible resource thrown at an attempt to retain the services of our current manager.
“Rafa Benitez has demonstrated his ability to connect with the fans. Whilst we accept that to retain the services of Rafa will come ‘at a price’, we urge you to look ahead to the longer term benefit of Newcastle United.
“Installing Rafa as manager will have shown you the lift that it gave to our club, albeit maybe too late. It is imperative that you act swiftly. We need actions not words – a PR feel-good statement is not want the fans want to see.
“We need you to demonstrate your business acumen and your intent to not let this one slip away.”