Rafa Benitez raises the bar at Newcastle ahead of talks with Mike Ashley

Rafa Benitez wants Newcastle United to break into the Premier League's top eight.

Sunday, 6th May 2018, 10:30 pm
Rafa Benitez.

Benitez’s side, beaten 2-1 by Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday, are 10th in the division with two games left to play.

The club’s target this season was top-flight survival, but Benitez – whose side have suffered three successive defeats – wants the team to push on next season.

To do that, he will need to improve the squad – and that will take substantial summer investment.

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“I will say and this is after a defeat and after so many interviews when I have said it before,” said United’s manager.

“What I will say is that this is a massive club. If we want to compete in the Premier League, and at a good level, then what we have to do are the right things – and that’s it.

“Then we cannot be thinking that our position is ‘oh, we’re safe, great’.

“No. We have 52,000 fans at St James’s Park, between 3,000 and 9,000 fans at away games in the Championship.

“That shows that this club has to be competing to be in the top eight or higher.”

Benitez wants to know if owner Mike Ashley – who is yet to find a buyer for the club, which was put up for sale late last year – shares his ambitions for Newcastle, which has only qualified for Europe in the last decade.

“I have to say what I have to say, and that’s very clear,” said Benitez, whose side take on fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley on Wednesday night.

“Everybody, all the fans, they have the same feeling as me. So it’s something we need to clarify.”

Benitez’s representatives have held preliminary talks with the club’s hierarchy over a new deal and the summer transfer window.

Asked for an update, Benitez said: “It’s more or less the same situation with the contract.”

Benitez was asked how soon he wanted things “clarified” after the Watford game.

“Maybe before the summer, I don’t know. But as soon as possible,” said Benitez, whose contract expires next year.