Newcastle United news: Free agent deal weighed up as Mike Ashley identifies 'ideal' Rafa Benitez replacement

Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez
Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez

With Newcastle United safe from Premier League relegation, all eyes are on the future of Rafa Benitez.

Benitez potentially has just three games left in-charge of the Magpies with no further progress made over a new contract - which expires in the summer.

The 59-year-old has set his demands of inheriting a budget which can allow him to take United to the next level and is prepared to walk away if his wish is not granted.

But as proven throughout the Spaniard's three years on Tyneside, owner Mike Ashley is a tough man to negotiate with.

And it is claimed that there is further evidence of Ashley's stubbornness as he reportedly lines up Benitez's replacement.

Lyon boss Bruno Genesio had previously been mentioned, however France Football understands Ashley believes Jurgen Klinsmann is the ideal choice.

Indeed, the report also states United would face competition from Everton should they approach the ex-Germany manager.

That could force Ashley into welcoming interest from elsewhere, with Gazzetta dello Sport claiming former World Cup winner Gennaro Gattuso could throw his name into the hat.

Gattuso recently met up with Jorge Mendes and the super agent brought up the idea of whether the AC Milan manager would be interested in the Newcastle job.

However, the 41-year-old later rubbished talks: “(These are) unfounded rumours," he told Rai Sport.

“I repeat, with Mendes, I only have a great friendship.”

Should Benitez stay at St James's Park, he is reportedly eyeing a reunion with Ryan Babel, who he signed for Liverpool in 2007 for £11.5million.

A source close to the Fulham player has told Football Insider that Newcastle are among the clubs keeping tabs on Babel.

His contract at the Cottagers expires at the end of the season, meaning he'll be available on a free transfer in the summer.