Rafael Benitez will meet Newcastle managing director Lee Charnley again today as the Magpies fight to keep him at the helm.
The 56-year-old sat down with Charnley and club owner Mike Ashley after Sunday’s remarkable 5-1 final day victory over Tottenham at St James’ Park, during which a the bulk of a crowd of 52,183 implored him to take on the challenge of leading the club back into the Barclays Premier League.
It is understood those discussions were “positive and productive”, but that an agreement is yet to be reached despite an apparent willingness on both sides to maintain the status quo.
Benitez and Charnley will continue to talk this week as they attempt to find a basis upon which they can work together in the Sky Bet Championship and ensure that the Magpies’ stay in the lower division is as brief as possible.
Newcastle certainly want the former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss to stay after handing him a 10-game rescue mission which ultimately fell short, but only just so, leaving them to reflect on what might have been had they moved just weeks earlier.
Benitez – whose three-year contract includes a break clause – too has indicated that he would like to carry on, saying: “My heart is obviously telling me yes, it is a fantastic opportunity, a fantastic atmosphere.
“Everything is so good that my heart is very clear. But at the same time you have to use the brain, both things have to go together.”
However, a man with his experience and success will not be short of offers this summer and although it is clear he has enjoyed his brief spell in the city to date and has been moved by the public affection for him, the conditions will have to be right for him to give Charnley the answer he wants.
Benitez has already been afforded far more control than his recent predecessors – the fact that he has the title of manager rather than head coach is the most obvious evidence of that – and the extent to which the club is prepared to extend that arrangement could prove central to his decision.
Relegation means a massive drop in revenue and is almost certain to trigger an exodus of the club’s higher-profile players.
The manager is likely to want the final word in who stays and who goes, as well as who replaces the departees, and that at a club which has previously viewed that aspect of the business as a boardroom role, could require a significant change in policy.
But the existing model has demonstrably not worked and with Benitez having ended a disastrous campaign with a six-game unbeaten run and managed to get the club’s fans firmly in his corner, now could be the time to bite the bullet and move in another direction.