Newcastle's failure to strengthen puts question mark above Rafa Benitez's future at club

Newcastle United's failure to strengthen its squad has put a question mark above Rafa Benitez's long-term future at St James's Park, writes Miles Starforth.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 02 February, 2017, 21:31
Rafa Benitez

Benitez wanted to sign a winger and a midfielder in last month’s transfer window.

But the club failed to land any of Benitez’s targets and discussions over a loan deal for Andros Townsend came to nothing.

Benitez told of his “disappointment” after Wednesday night’s 2-2 draw against Queens Park Rangers at St James’s Park.

United’s manager said: “I said what I wanted, what the team needed and that was it. It wasn’t my decision.”

Benitez will NOT quit the club in the wake of the transfer window, which is second in the Championship ahead of tomorrow’s home game against Derby County.

However, he will want reassurances ahead of the summer, when Newcastle would need to spend big in the event of promotion back to the Premier League.

Benitez had been hopeful that a deal could be done for Townsend, who was interested in returning to Tyneside after a difficult few months at Crystal Palace.

The Premier League side were willing to part with the winger on deadline day, but the two clubs couldn’t agree on a loan fee.

Benitez, not directly involved in those negotiations, was left frustrated at United’s failure to sign the 25-year-old, who was sold to Palace last summer for £13million.

Townsend, in Benitez’s view, would have quickly settled at his former club.

Benitez – who has the final say on any incoming signing – believes the club has taken a gamble by failing to strengthen.

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Newcastle’s rivals, including league leaders Brighton and Hove Albion, added to their squads in the window.

United owner Mike Ashley made it clear last summer that Benitez did NOT have to sell any of his big names.

Benitez and managing director Lee Charnley, however, moved a number of players on, including Moussa Sissoko and Georginio Wijnaldum, and the club turned in £30million-plus profit at the end of the window.

The expectation was that Ashley would allow Benitez to reinvest some of that surplus.

Ashley – who is close to chief scout Graham Carr – got involved in the club’s plans for the January after Benitez and Charnley had compiled a list of targets.

Benitez was looking for United to do their business early in the window.

But it quickly became clear that the billionaire did not want the club to spend any money, and United were left to scour the loan market.

Benitez – who has a good working relationship with Charnley – still believes that Newcastle can win promotion, though he feels the club has taken a gamble by failing to reinforce a squad which he believes is weak in places and vulnerable to injury.

The 56-year-old remains focused on guiding the club back to the top flight, though his longer term future at St James’s Park now looks less secure.

Benitez signed a three-year deal at United last summer in the wake of relegation.