Rafa Benitez: No regrets at taking Newcastle job – but no commitment to stay

Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez

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Rafa Benitez says he has no regrets about taking the Newcastle United job – but he has refused to commit to the club in the event of relegation.

Benitez’s side are second-bottom of the Premier League and six points adrift of safety.

And there is a clause in his contract allowing him to walk away in the event of relegation to the Championship.

But Benitez, tipped for the Spain job by current coach Vicente del Bosque, will not discuss his future beyond this season.

The 55-year-old is instead focused on keeping the club, which takes on Southampton at the St Mary’s Stadium this afternoon, in the division.

Benitez, however, does not regret taking on the “challenge”.

Asked if he had any “regrets” about taking over at Newcastle, he said: “No.

“I want to stay here for a while, so I’m really pleased to have this challenge. For me it is a challenge.”

Pressed on whether he would stay on if the club was relegated, Benitez added: “I have confidence we will stay in the Premier League, so I don’t think about the other options.”

Benitez – whose side were beaten 3-2 by relegation rivals Norwich City last weekend – believes he has the answers to the club’s on-field problems.

But time is against him, with the club having just seven games left to play.

Asked if he was an optimist by nature, Benitez said: “I am very competitive, more than optimistic.

“So I am realistic and I can see the problem, but still I can see the solutions. So we have to keep working and we have to approach the game like Norwich not like ‘oh, it’s a problem’.

“No, it’s a challenge and we have to try and win this game and be ready.

“If we cannot then we move on to the next one, because still we have games to play, points to win and we have to try.”

Del Bosque – who is standing down after Euro 2016 – named Benitez, Roberto Martinez, Julen Lopetegui has three potential successors.

But Benitez said: “I am the Newcastle manager and I want to be the Newcastle manager next year.

“I am really pleased here. Always it is positive when people talk about you.

“Obviously, with Spain, it is one of the teams in the world now, but I am just concentrating and I would like to stay here for a while.

Asked if he was “flattered” by del Bosque’s comments, he said: “Yes, for sure.

“Del Bosque is my friend. I was his assistant when he was with the first team at Real Madrid. He knows how I work – but still, I think I will be here for a while.”