Mike Ashey has made the biggest mistake of his time at Newcastle United

Mike Ashley “cares” about Newcastle United.

“I know Mike Ashley, and he cares for Newcastle, even if fans say he doesn’t,” said the former Chelsea midfielder and United executive director. “He runs them in a structured way, he’s not there to pile hundreds of millions into the club. He’ll only sell to someone who’ll take it forward.”

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Yet Ashley is taking the club backwards.

Rafa Benitez, United’s manager, will leave St James’s Park when his contract expires on June 30. Benitez has been the best thing to happen to the club since Ashley bought it 12 years ago.

Talks first started over a new deal 18 months ago, but a £6million salary isn’t enough to keep the 59-year-old at the Premier League club.

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Benitez, frustrated after fighting successive relegation battles with a club he feels should be challenging for cups and European football, wanted more, though he was willing to compromise and make incremental improvements to the squad and infrastructure.

Ashley wasn’t quite to willing to meet in the middle.

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Rafa Benitez's contract expires on June 30.

And the offer of a one-year deal was turned down.

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If Ashley really did care about United he would ensure that Benitez stays at St James’s Park. It should be a no-brainer – as Benitez adds value to the for-sale club.

No-one, of course, is bigger than Newcastle, but without Benitez, the club would have been in big trouble after a potentially-catastrophic relegation in 2016. He has coached, cajoled and coaxed the team through a turbulent period. Ashley has a lot to thank Benitez for given that financial catastrophe that his careful management averted.

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Yet here we are. Benitez has all but given up hope of securing the concessions he feels are necessary to take the club forward. And he will no longer be the manager in six days.

Mike Ashley.
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Ashley seemingly cares more about his bottom line than the future of the club. And Benitez knows that.