Newcastle have pulled off a ‘major coup’ in Benitez, says former manager

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez
Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez

The last time Newcastle United were relegated to the Championship they bounced straight back up under the guidance of Chris Hughton.

And Hughton, now manager of Brighton & Hove Albion, has praised his former club for pulling off a “major coup” in securing Rafa Benitez as manager on a three-year deal.

Hughton, who said second tier clubs don’t come much bigger than Newcastle, is relishing the chance to lock horns with the former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Inter Milan manager.

“It gives them (Newcastle) that little bit of stability,” said Hughton.

“They haven’t got to go out and get someone else.

“He (Benitez) has done very well in a short period of time there. It is a major coup for the club and there is no doubt it makes the division stronger.

“As a player you always want to play against the best teams and the bigger clubs.

“They don’t come much bigger in the Championship than Newcastle, so it’s one for the players to look forward to.”

Bookies have installed Newcastle as 5-2 favourites to go straight back up as champions, as they did under Hughton in 2009-10.

The Seagulls were pipped to automatic promotion by Middlesbrough and Burnley and they are 14-1 to make amends for their near-miss this season.

Hughton is looking forward to pitting his wits against Benitez, who won the Champions League at Liverpool and the Europa League at Chelsea in a trophy-laden career.

“I’ve met him on a couple of occasions,” said the Brighton chief.

“Whenever I have spoken to him he is a proper football person. He loves the game and he loves the English game.

“I’m certainly looking forward to coming up against him.

“It will be tough, because they are a good outfit,” Hughton told The Argus.