Miles Starforth's pre-season tour diary: Is this the beginning of the end for Rafa Benitez at Newcastle?
'I don't do the numbers'.
That was Rafa Benitez’s response in Ireland when asked if he found it strange that he was having to sell to buy at Newcastle United.
Benitez does the football. And he’s good at it.
The club has come a long way since he took over two years ago.
Benitez, however, wants to take United a lot further, and to do that, he needs money. And the purse strings have seemingly been tightened, not loosened, by owner Mike Ashley.
Newcastle’s manager took questions on the club’s transfer policy after training at Carlton House, Co Kildare, on Tuesday morning.
Sat on a chair on the edge of the pitch, he answered question after question as club staff packed up equipment behind him ahead of that night’s game against Dublin Side St Patrick’s Athletic.
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Benitez, mindful of the need to keep fans on Tyneside informed, was as open as he could be with his answers.
The 58-year-old also had a pointed message to supporters ahead of what he believes will be an even tougher season.
Benitez said: “There is another message for our fans. If anyone wants to criticise anyone of our players, they have to realise it’s not that you are signing the first on your lift or the the second of the third.
“Sometimes you have to wait and sign the player that is available and make sure this player is giving everything.
“This is the positive thing about our squad. They were giving everything and that is why were promoted and finished 10th. At the end, they give their best.”
Benitez, now in the final year of his contract, will continue to do his best for the club. But it may not be the season he – and the club’s fans – had hoped for after the club secured a top-half finish in the Premier League last season.
Benitez has taken his team to Ireland for the past three years. Will he be back next season? It feels like the beginning of the end.