It could be a long, hot summer, but is there a chill at St James’s Park?
As Tyneside sweltered in the heat on Tuesday, Rafa Benitez arrived at the stadium.
Benitez was there for talks with Newcastle United officials.
So is Benitez any closer to an agreement with owner Mike Ashley? Ashley’s first priority this summer was to persuade his manager to sign a new deal with his contract set to expire in 12 months time.
However, Benitez wanted to first agree a budget with Ashley, who has made it clear that transfer funds must come out of the club’s profits.
Benitez wasn’t fazed by the early transfer deadline – the summer window closes on August 9 – when asked about the change late last season.
“You had three months to do whatever you want to do – now you have two months,” said Benitez. “You can do whatever you want in two months.”
That was then. This is now. Can Benitez still do everything he wants?
Benitez was understood to be “very frustrated” at the impasse in talks early this month.
Since then, nothing’s happened. Other clubs have bid for players. United, it seems, have only talked, though the World Cup is a factor.
United’s players report back for the start of pre-season training on Monday.
For the third successive season, Benitez will take his players to Ireland for a training camp.
Newcastle, again, will stay and train at the luxurious Carlton House Hotel, a golf and spa resort set in 1,100 acres of lush parkland just outside Maynooth, Co Kildare.
Last year, winger Jacob Murphy met up with his new team-mates for the first time at the hotel, having joined from Norwich City in a £12million deal.
The club, which netted £123million for a 10th-placed finish in the Premier League last season, is in a better position financially this summer thanks to the efforts of Benitez and his players.
Just how will Benitez be rewarded for his efforts?
Ashley was keen to know which players he wanted to sell this summer in early talks.
Aleksandar Mitrovic, Chancel Mbemba, Achraf Lazaar, Henri Saivet and Matz Sels are not in Benitez’s plans, while Rolando Aarons also faces an uncertain future.
Benitez will sacrifice others if he feels he can reinvest the money and strengthen his squad.
Benitez doesn’t want a big squad. What he wants is competition within a small squad.
“If we want to compete, we need to bring in some players,” he said.
“We need competition. We have a squad of 24 players, we need to make sure we have as much of this 24 that they can start and play well in the Premier League.”
Benitez also expects to lose Mikel Merino, who has a release clause in his contract.
United have made no comment since the season ended.
Benitez has also kept quiet, and supporters, understandably, are concerned at the situation.
The club has put back its deadline for season-ticket renewals as fans wait for a transfer breakthrough.
There has been a lot of talking behind the scenes at Newcastle and elsewhere, but clubs are starting to make their moves.
United have come a long way in a short space of time under Benitez. The team, and the club, is unrecognisable from the mess he inherited.
Benitez MUST be backed this summer. The heat is on.