Rafa Benitez finds an unlikely ally at Newcastle

Rafa Benitez.
Rafa Benitez.

Neil Warnock says Newcastle United "can't afford" to lose Rafa Benitez, his old foe.

Benitez is in the final year of his contract at St James's Park, and United's manager is not minded to extend his contract because of the club's failure to back him in the transfer market.

Newcastle take on Warnock's Cardiff City tomorrow, and Warnock – who has feuded with Benitez in the past – has spoken about his counterpart's position at the club.

"The one person Newcastle can't afford to lose is Rafa," Warnock told the BBC. "His commitment to Newcastle has been fantastic.

"He's in his last year now, and it'll be interesting to see how that develops, because I'm sure worldwide he'll be targeted."

Warnock was unhappy with Benitez for fielding a weakened Liverpool team against Fulham in 2007 ahead of their Champions League final against AC Milan.

Benitez's side lost, and Fulham stayed up at the expense of Sheffield United, then managed by Warnock.

"Everything has been said about that," said Warnock. "We've met a few times since that.

"Funnily enough, I was talking to Craig Bellamy this morning in the Academy, because he played in that game for Liverpool.

"He was telling me how they had three days off before and the other lads weren't bothered either.

"Life is too short. I have to enjoy this now. If you had told me when I came here we would be playing Rafa's side with a full house, it's incredible."

The Cardiff City Stadium will be sold out for United's visit to South Wales.

"They've (the fans) played a big part, not just at home but the away fans have been fantastic as well, you get your hard core away from home," said Warnock.

"But it is an intimidating place, this Cardiff City Stadium, when they are all in full song. The Welsh anthem sends shivers up my spine and I'm an Englishman!

"And with the Geordies being on board, I think they are unbelievable. About 50,000 every week and they haven't won anything for a long time.

"They're just fantastic supporters. There are two good groups here that have been so loyal to both clubs."