Rafael Benitez: Newcastle turn to former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager after sacking Steve McClaren

Rafael Benítez has been installed as Steve McClaren’s successor as head coach at relegation-threatened Newcastle United on a three-year contract. 

The 55-year-old has committed to the North East club, one point adrift of safety with 10 matches remaining, despite the chances of dropping into the Championship becoming an acute possibility in recent weeks.

McClaren was sacked on Friday morning after a succession of poor results, culminating in the 3-1 loss to Bournemouth at St James’ Park on Saturday, and heightened supporter unrest triggered a premature end to his reign.

Benítez, meanwhile, has won two La Liga titles and a Uefa Cup with Valencia before arriving in England to lead Liverpool to a historic Champions League triumph in 2005. 

Later returning to the Premier League in 2012 for a hostile spell as interim manager of Chelsea, guiding the Blues to Europa League success, the Spaniard then secured the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana with Napoli.

Only three defeats in 25 matches at Real Madrid was not enough to prevent Benítez being deposed by Zinedine Zidane at the Santiago Bernabéu.

Coaches Fabio Pecchia, Francisco de Míguel Moreno, Antonio Gómez Pérez will join Ian Cathro and Simon Smith to form Benítez’s coaching team. Paul Simpson, Alessandro Schoenmaker and Steve Black will part company with the club with immediate effect.

Speaking of his appointment, the former Valencia manager said: “I have the pleasure to confirm I have committed to a legendary English club, with the massive challenge of remaining part of the Premier League.

“It will be a challenge not just for me and my staff but for the players, the club and the fans. All of us must push together in the same direction and with the same target in mind. This is the reason why I’m going to ask for your total support to successfully complete this task.


“Personally, it means my return to the Premier League, closer to my home and my family. I can’t be happier. C’mon Toon Army! The club and I need your total involvement!”

Managing Director Lee Charnley said: “I am very pleased to welcome Rafa Benitez to the club. In Rafa we have, without doubt, secured the services of one of Europe’s top managers. He has managed some of the most successful teams at the very highest level of the game and we are proud to now have him as our manager.

“Our sole focus now is to give our full support to Rafa, his coaching team and the players in order to secure our status in the Premier League. I would like to place on record my sincere thanks to Paul Simpson, Alessandro Schoenmaker and Steve Black for their service to the club.”

It remains to be seen if there is a clause in Benítez’s contract allowing the Spaniard to leave if the club suffer relegation.

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