Rafa Benitez outlines his Champions League ambitions for Newcastle amid speculation linking him with Arsenal

Rafa Benitez can see clearly at Newcastle United '“ but does Mike Ashley share his vision?

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez

Benitez is keen to discuss the club’s future now the club has secured its Premier League status – sooner rather than later.

Newcastle – who take on Everton at Goodison Park on Monday night – are 10th in the division after four successive victories.

And Benitez, among the favourites to succeed Arsene Wenger at Arsenal in the summer, wants the club to compete even higher up the table next season.

With hopes of a takeover having receded, Benitez needs to know if he can find common ground with owner Ashley, who put the club up for sale late last year.

“The situation is very clear,” said Benitez, who has taken charge of 99 United games since his appointment two years ago.

“When I decided to come here, I could see the potential of this massive club and the ambitions of the fans. I can feel this passion after two successful years here.

Rafa Benitez

“I know the ambition of the fans, and now I need to know the ideas of the club and whether we share the same ambitions.”

Asked when he wanted to sit down with Ashley, Benitez said: “I would like to do it as soon as possible, but I want to concentrate on the games at the same time.

“In terms of the club, it’s very clear that we have to start talking about ideas for the future.

“You need to know how much money is available, and then what can you do with that. We are competing against clubs with big resources.

Rafa Benitez

“We have to make sure we are on the same page. They know my ideas and we know what every single fan is expecting.”

Benitez isn’t content with just Premier League survival.

The 58-year-old, one of European football’s most respected coaches, wants to win more trophies.

“My idea when I came here was to be at least in the top 10, then to compete to try to win the League Cup, FA Cup, Europa League or even the Champions League,” said Benitez.

Newcastle moved 13 points clear of the Premier League’s relegation zone after last weekend’s 2-1 win over Arsenal.

And Benitez is proud of what his team has already achieved in its first season back in the top flight.

“Everybody’s been trying to do their best to help the team,” said Benitez.

“I’m really pleased with everything that has been going on. Hopefully, we can get more points and stay higher in the table.

“The main target was to stay in the Premier League. We did it and we did it brilliantly.”

Meanwhile, Benitez has paid tribute to Wenger, who yesterday announced that he would step down at the end of the year after 22 years as Arsenal manager.

“I have been talking well about Arsene Wenger for quite a while,” said Benitez.

“When he came here to England, to do things in the way he did and win in the way he was winning, was a massive achievement. His behaviour has always been good.

“He’s an example for everyone, but especially a foreign manager like me. He was fighting and winning before me, and it was really difficult to do that. He did really well.”

Asked about Wenger’s incredible longevity, Benitez added: “I think it’s the last time we will see this.

“There is so much money in football now that everyone wants things quickly and want to change things after a couple of bad results.”