Rafa Benitez on 'lost opportunity' at Newcastle United under PIF after ‘no project’ admission

Former Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez left the club in 2019 after growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of investment by then owner Mike Ashley.

Benitez had helped Newcastle bounce straight back to the Premier League in his first full season in charge before leading the team to 10th and 13th placed finishes in the top flight.

But the Spaniard saw out his contract after three years at St James's Park and left to take charge of Dalian Professional in China.

Over two years after Benitez’s departure, Newcastle were eventually taken over by a consortium led by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund and the investment that Benitez had craved was finally given to new head coach Eddie Howe.

Rafael Benitez, manager of Newcastle United, looks on prior to the Premier League match between Fulham FC and Newcastle United at Craven Cottage on May 12, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images)

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And the former Newcastle boss believes the tools are now in place for the club to finally ‘reach their real level’.

“[The old owners] were not investing to achieve more,” Benitez said. “What I said before, the context, you have to analyse that.

"We couldn't achieve much more and now [after the takeover] with more resources, more options and everyone supporting you, you have more chances to reach their real level.

"You have a city, you have a team and the way that they support the team is massive so now they have a chance to get better and better.”

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Benitez had offers to leave Newcastle during his tenure at the club, particularly following their relegation from the Premier League in 2016.

But the former Liverpool and Chelsea manager opted to stay on Tyneside for one reason.

“I will tell you that in my time there, I had an offer, I had some offers but especially one and I decided to stay for the fans,” he told Sky Sports. “Not because of the project because we didn't have any project but the fans, the supporters.”

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Benitez went on to admit the drawn-out takeover process, which was eventually approved last October, meant he missed any opportunity to manage the club under ambitious owners.

“I was honest to stay there to fight until the end,” he added. “I lost the opportunity to stay with the new owners – because they were coming late – and try to reach the maximum potential of the club.”