Rafa Benitez says promotion would just be the start for Newcastle United – as he’s determined to bring a trophy to St James’s Park.
Benitez yesterday signed a revised three-year deal at the relegated club.
I have won trophies. Now it is time for a new project, a new challenge. I can see the possibilities and the size of the club and the potential. Everything is massive and I want to be a part of it.Rafa Benitez
The 56-year-old has been given full control of transfers by owner Mike Ashley and managing director Lee Charnley.
Benitez’s first challenge is to get United out of the Championship.
But the Spaniard – who took charge for the final 10 games of last season but couldn’t keep the team in the Premier League – won’t be content with just taking the club back into the top flight.
Benitez sees the job as a long-term “project” which will eventually deliver the club its first major trophy since 1969.
Asked about his aim, the former Real Madrid and Liverpool manager said: “It is a challenge, yes.
“I have won trophies. Now it is time for a new project, a new challenge.
“I can see the possibilities and the size of the club and the potential.
“Everything is massive and I want to be a part of it.
“I am here because I am convinced we can go up next season, stay there for a long time and even win trophies.”
Benitez – who started last season in charge at the Bernabeu – will take Newcastle to Burton Albion next season.
And he has put his reputation on the line in football’s most unforgiving division because he firmly believes Newcastle can win promotion at the first attempt.
“If I decide to stay it is because I believe we can be where we belong,” said Benitez.
“We cannot say ‘we are a massive club and we deserved to be in the Premier League’.
“We have to be professional, train well, prepare for games like they are a final.
“We have to work harder than everyone.”
Benitez – who had a clause in his contract allowing him to walk away from the job in the event of relegation – was keen to stay in England.
And he has had “big-money” offers since United’s fate was confirmed earlier this month.
Asked if he could have gone elsewhere, Benitez said: Some offers – big money – but I am happy here because I can see a project and a future, a big club, fantastic fans, a lot of support and my family.
“You put everything together and I’m really pleased to be here.”
Benitez met Ashley after the club ended the season with a 5-1 home win over Tottenham Hotspur.
He went on to have detailed discussions with Charnley, who he says fully supported him after he took over from the sacked Steve McClaren.
And those talks – and the support he had had from the fans – persuaded him to stay at St James’s Park.
Asked about his meeting with Ashley, Benitez said: “You know, I met him that day, but after that I was still dealing with Lee and my relationship with him is very good.
“Every time I talk about something with him he is trying to help.
“We have been talking about players and he was already in movement. That is why I’m happy because we have a good relationship to build something important.”
Newcastle fans chanted Benitez’s name throughout the Tottenham victory.
And he wants to “repay” them next season.
Asked about the emotions behind the decision, Benitez said: “Maybe it is because I am getting older that I am more emotional now.
“I was in Liverpool and I said no to Real Madrid at that time because I had given my word to Liverpool, and that was emotional.
“Maybe I have had the same situation in other places as well.
“In this case, it has been quite easy because of the reaction of the fans. I was at the ‘Run For The 96’ the other day in Liverpool.
“My relationship with the fans at Liverpool is really good – with the city, with everything – but we were doing really well there and we were winning.
“Here, even though we were not winning, the fans were still fantastic.
“I want to repay them, and I want to do my best for them too.
“We went three or four games without winning here, and still they (the fans) were supporting me and supporting the team.
“For me, all these things together can make the difference, and that is what they did.”
Benitez has captured the imagination of fans just like the late, great Sir Bobby Robson did when he took charge in 1999.
“I would like to build something,” he said. “I would like to be close to (Sir Bobby), that would be fantastic.
“I will start working immediately so we can be big.”