Rafa Benitez preaches to the converted as Mike Ashley stays silent at Newcastle United
The sting was in the tail.
Rafa Benitez, as expected, today broke his silence on his Newcastle United exit hours after his managerial contract at St James’s Park expired.
Benitez warmly thanked the club’s fans for the support he got during his three years on Tyneside.
“What we have had here – your support, your affection and your passion – has been unbelievable for me,” said the 59-year-old.
Benitez also praised his “fine” players and the staff who worked under him before getting to the bit everyone was waiting to read.
“I wanted to stay, but I didn’t just want to sign an extended contract,” said Benitez. “I wanted to be part of a project. Unfortunately, it became increasingly clear to me that those at the top of the club did not share this vision. I’m very sad about that, but I do not regret for one moment my decision to come to Tyneside and I’m very proud about what we have achieved.”
Benitez was being diplomatic, but the quotes, nonetheless, are damaging to Ashley, the club’s silent owner. They confirmed what was reported last week after the club announced that it had failed to reach an agreement over a new deal.
One weekend report suggested that it was the fault of the Bin Zayed Group, the club’s would-be buyers, that Benitez hadn’t been signed up given that they didn’t want him.
However, supporters, after 12 years of Ashley, are understandably cynical. And they are in Benitez’s corner.