What's going on? Rafa Benitez, Mike Ashley and a transfer window stand-off Newcastle

What's going on?

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 13th January 2018, 6:00 am
Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez.
Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez.

We’re 12 days into the transfer window, and Newcastle United are seemingly no closer to making a signing.

Of course, we’ve been here before.

Remember last January? Back then, Rafa Benitez wanted to re-sign Andros Townsend from Crystal Palace, who were willing to sell.

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Benitez felt a signing, or more, would guarantee promotion.

Owner Mike Ashley, however, wasn’t willing to spend.

Now, Benitez wants players who can give the club the best chance of staying in the Premier League.

We know Benitez would like a striker, a winger, a No 10, a left-back and a goalkeeper.

We also know he’s unlikely to get what he wants.

Benitez, unusually, was late for yesterday’s pre-match press conference. United’s manager is rarely late.

Benitez was there to talk about this afternoon’s home game against Swansea City.

But the media call was dominated by questions about the transfer window.

Listening at the back was Keith Bishop, a PR advisor who is close to Ashley.

Benitez, mindful of the sensitivity of Ashley, has been diplomatic in recent press conferences.

And the 57-year-old didn’t stray too far off-message.

Asked about transfers and a conversation last month with Ashley, Benitez said: “We are working on that, but there is no news at the moment.

“The last time that we talked, we knew what we had to do.

“We were talking about different players, and I talk with Lee (Charnley, Newcastle’s managing director) every day.

“We are trying to move forward. Can we add before the end of the window? I hope so.”

But did he know his budget?

Benitez said: “No, we’re still working.”

Ashley, we understand, is willing to sanction some spending this month – maybe £10-20million, though that won’t go very far in an inflated market – but Benitez doesn’t have an exact figure to play with.

There’s a stand-off, of sorts, and Benitez’s patience is wearing thin.

Benitez has discussed his ideas with Ashley and Charnley. They know his targets.

So why the delay? Surely Ashley isn’t willing to risk another relegation?

But the billionaire, we also know, is a gambler. He’s gambled before and he will gamble again.

Benitez doesn’t want to take any chances.

The Spaniard didn’t take any chances yesterday. He kept a lid on his frustrations.

One thing that Benitez did stress was that he didn’t have to sell to buy, though there will be some movement out of the club this month.

Ashley, however, would rather Benitez sold before he bought. Benitez would rather buy then sell.

Of course, Ashley also wants to sell the club.

If he can’t find a buyer over the coming months, it’s hard to see Benitez, one of European football’s most respected coaches, seeing out his contract at the club.