Rafa Benitez delivers biggest update yet on his Newcastle United future

Rafa Benitez says the ball is in Mike Ashley’s court after contract talks finally re-started at Newcastle United.

Rafa Benitez.
Rafa Benitez.

Benitez’s deal at St James’s Park runs out in the summer – and Ashley wants to keep him on Tyneside.

However, United’s manager wants significant investment in the club’s squad, infrastructure and Academy.

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And, responding to reports linking him with jobs in France, Benitez has insisted that he’s only talking to Newcastle, though he is yet to have sit-down discussions with Ashley.

Benitez’s representatives have instead had preliminary talks with Lee Charnley, the club’s managing director.

“The only club I’m talking about my future now is Newcastle United – and I’m waiting for an answer,” said Benitez, whose side take on Crystal Palace tomorrow afternoon looking for a sixth successive home win.

Rafa Benitez.

“Why? Because we have been in contact, and I’m waiting for an answer.

“I will not give more details. We were talking. I was talking with Lee Charnley – we were talking – and now we’re waiting.

“They were coming with something, we are coming with something. That’s it.

“The ball is in their court. It was Lee Charnley, with my people.

Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley.

“I will not talk too much about that. You have the clarification. The ball is in their court.

“I have no idea (what the outcome will be). The ball is there. Over there.

“I will not give details about the conversation we had. It took place some days ago.

“The only conversation I have is with Newcastle.”

Ashley first attempted to secure Benitez on a longer contract in January last year.

However, the 58-year-old was not prepared to re-commit to the club without guarantees over investment in the squad.

A frustrated Benitez had to sell to buy last summer after reusing to sign a contract extension, though Ashley sanctioned a club-record move for Miguel Almiron in January’s transfer window which could cost the club up to £21million with add-ons.

Almiron has helped the club move to within three points of Benitez’s 38-point safety target with six games left to play.

Ashley – who has been waiting to find out what it would take to keep Benitez at the club.

Benitez – who wants to stay in England and has repeatedly talked about the “potential” he sees at Newcastle – is prepared to sit down with Ashley to finalise an agreement.

“It depends how things are going on,” said Benitez. “At the moment, we just wait.

“In every business, in every department in every club, we have people talking, and after maybe we have a final meeting.”

Meanwhile, 14th-placed Newcastle are seven points ahead of the relegation zone ahead of the Palace game.

“We have the feeling in the city, not just in the squad of players ... everyone has a feeling of one win,” said Benitez.

“My responsibility is to keep saying we have to try to get three points in this game, and then get another three in the next game.

“We can’t waste time thinking just of numbers.

“We’re playing with more confidence. We have talked about Almiron giving us more in attack.

“The fans behind the team, the players together – this belief gives you more chances to get the points.”

Roy Hodgson’s Palace are a point ahead of United in 13th place.