Rafa Benitez looking for transfer budget to ‘compete’ with Newcastle’s Premier League rivals

Rafa Benitez.
Rafa Benitez.

Rafa Benitez has returned to Tyneside as Mikel Merino heads for the exit door at Newcastle United.

Benitez was at St James’s Park yesterday for talks with club officials.

The reality is, with the prices in the market now, you need the money to compete.

Rafa Benitez

Newcastle have only signed one player – former loanee Martin Dubravka – so far this summer.

Benitez has been involved in a stand-off with owner Mike Ashley, who has been pushing him to sign a new contract with his deal expiring in 12 months’ time.

United’s manager, however, wants to agree a transfer budget before starting contract talks.

Benitez had hoped to meet Ashley for face-to-face talks at the end of last season.

Speaking early last month, Benitez said: “In modern football, and especially in the Premier League, the budget is crucial.

“The reality is, with the prices in the market now, you need the money to compete.”

Benitez’s arrival at St James’s Park came as reports in Spain claimed Merino was set to join Real Sociedad.

The midfielder – who joined Newcastle from Borussia Dortmund last summer – has a release clause in his contract.

And Merino, 22, is expected to sign for the La Liga club, which has reportedly triggered the clause, by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, United have extended the deadline for season-ticket renewals until July 3.