Rafa Benitez and Newcastle in the Premier League – where do we go from here?

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez

It was a straightforward question.

But it didn't get a straightforward answer.

Rafa Benitez was asked in the wake of Newcastle United's promotion to the Premier League last night whether he would be at the club next season.

READ MORE: 'Now the fun begins' – how Twitter reacted to Newcastle United's promotion

Benitez didn't say "yes". And he didn't say "no".

United's manager said: "You never know – that's football."

Benitez's right, you never know in football, especially where Newcastle are concerned.

And that's where we are. We don't know for certain whether Benitez will be in charge next season.

But what we do know is that Benitez – who is under contract for another two years at St James's Park – wants to stay. His players want him to stay. And the club's fans want him to stay.

So what's the problem?

The problem, as ever in football, is likely to involve money.

Benitez wants to be competitive next season. And to do that, United will need to spend a lot of money, possibly the best part of £100million, though they could recoup some of that through player sales.

As Rob Elliot pointed out today, Benitez isn't a manager who would be content to aim for top-flight survival.

Benitez, one of European football's most experienced and respected coaches, is better than that.

And Newcastle should be better than that.

Asked what he needed in the summer, Benitez added: "What we need is to enjoy (promotion), and after we will see where we are.

“Now is the time to enjoy what we have done.

"I am sure if we do the right things, we have to prepare everything to be strong enough for the Premier League.

"We have to wait and enjoy it, play another."

So we have to wait for the outcome of end-of-season talks involving Mike Ashley, the club's billionaire owner.

Will Ashley, never one to be pushed around, give Benitez what he wants?

Maybe Ashley, grateful that Benitez has guided the club back into the cash-rich Premier League, will see that the 57-year-old is United's best chance of long-term footballing – and financial – success.

Or maybe he will look at the figures and come to a different view.

We know that Benitez – who was "disappoitned" that he didn't at least one new player in January's transfer window – doesn't speak directly to Ashley.

Instead, the Spaniard deals with managing director Lee Charnley, who warned about the financial impact of relegation when the club published its latest accounts earlier this month.

Then there's chief scout Graham Carr, who does speak to Ashley.

Can Benitez – who has the final say on incoming transfers – and Carr agree on targets?

There are a lot of questions off the pitch, and we will have to wait for the answers.

In the meantime, there still a title to fight for on the field.

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