Newcastle United players have contract questions as Rafa Benitez waits on answers from Mike Ashley

Rafa Benitez.
Rafa Benitez.

Rafa Benitez is still waiting for answers at Newcastle United – as his players ask questions about their contracts.

Benitez outlined to the club’s hierarchy what it would take for him to sign a new deal last month.

However, United’s manager, out of contract in the summer, has not yet had a response from owner Mike Ashley.

“We are at the same point – no news,” said Benitez, whose side take on Southampton at St James’s Park tomorrow evening.

Benitez and his staff have been planning for the Premier League Asia Trophy in China in July.

He cannot get involved in contract decisions about players until his own future is decided, though.

It was reported this week that Benitez had told winger Matt Ritchie, 29, that he won’t be able to offer him a contract extension because of his age.

However, Benitez said: “I finish my contract on June 30.

“I’m a professional. I want to do well and the first thing is to win against Southampton in the next game. I don’t like to see debates about my contract, players leaving or me having meetings with anyone. I have to prepare the team the best way possible for the next game.

“I have had some players talking with me, but I told them you have to talk with the club – not me. All I can do is make sure they are fit and ready, and pick the team.

“My priority is to concentrate on the game. I’m not happy when I see all the stories about Ritchie. It’s not true. My job is to prepare Ritchie for the next game. I cannot give any advice about the future – my contract is up on June 30.

“If I do not have a contract after next month, how can I say to him ‘I will not give you a contract’? It’s a decision for the club – my job is to be sure he is fit and ready. I want to be sure we get another three points, and we will be safe, because I think the job is not done.”

Newcastle are 15th in the Premier League – and seven points above the relegation zone – with four games left to play.

“I said 38 points (would be enough to stay up) a long time ago, but Cardiff won a couple of games that changed everything,” said Benitez.

“Now it’s even more important for us to win another game and be sure everything is fine, then we can think about how high we can go.”

United beat Leicester City 1-0 at the King Power Stadium last week to all but secure another season of top-flight football.

“The good thing for us is we did well and played a very good game,” said Benitez.

“But, at the same time, Southampton are coming with a lot of confidence. It will be an interesting game and tough for both.”

Meanwhile, the only two players unavailable to Benitez are Sean Longstaff and Florian Lejeune.

“I saw Longstaff,” said Benitez. “He’s walking around, and that’s good news.”