Mike Ashley makes surprise contract offer at Newcastle ahead of transfer deadline

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez will not discuss his Newcastle United future before the transfer window closes.

Benitez is under contract at St James’s Park for another 18 months.

And United’s manager is understood to have been sounded out about a new deal by the club’s hierarchy.

However, Benitez, focused on improving his squad and the club’s league position, is unwilling to talk about a contract extension during the transfer window.

The 57-year-old’s relationship with owner Mike Ashley has become strained over the club’s failure to spend money in the transfer market.

Newcastle didn’t strengthen a year ago to the frustration of Benitez, and the club missed out on a series of targets in last summer’s transfer window.

Ashley had been looking to sell the club by Christmas, but he last week broke off takeover talks with would-be buyer Amanda Staveley.

The billionaire, set to continue as owner for the foreseeable future, said in a conference call this month that he would sanction some spending in the window.

Benitez, keen to strengthen several positions, was asked last week whether he felt he could take the club forward with Ashley.

“In the future, you never know,” said Benitez, who is preparing for Sunday’s fourth-round FA Cup tie against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The news of the breakdown in talks between Ashley and Staveley disappointed many fans.

There were chants of “get out of our club”, aimed at Ashley, at the Etihad Stadium.

Asked before last weekend’s visit to the Etihad Stadium if he would consider his future, Benitez said: “My future is Manchester City now, and after Chelsea and then Burnley and Crystal Palace and so on.”

Newcastle’s 3-1 defeat to City left the club just one point above the Premier League’s relegation zone.

United take on Burnley at St James’s Park on January 31.