Rafa Benitez reveals the inside story of talks with Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley

Rafa Benitez has opened up on his Newcastle United exit.

Monday, 1st July 2019, 7:08 pm

Benitez’s contract at the club expired yesterday after talks broke down last month – and he’s set to be appointed as manager of Chinese club Dalian Yifang.

However, the 59-year-old's preference was to stay at St James’s Park.

United’s manager met Mike Ashley, the club’s owner, for talks in May after his team secured a 13th-placed finish in the Premier League.

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Rafa Benitez.

“I was expecting we would finish the meeting and everything would be done,” Benitez told The Times. “That was my thought. I thought I would be staying.

“Common sense says you’ve been successful on the pitch, you’d reached the target the club wanted which was to stay in the Premier League and the same in terms of business – they’d made a profit. Any owner would surely say ‘OK, on and off the pitch, you’ve delivered, so this will be an easy conversation’ and then you try to finalise the details. And it was not like that.”

Benitez, it’s claimed, was offered a one-year extension but with less control over transfers.

Then there were the ongoing takeover talks at the for-sale club.

Keith Bishop, Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley.

“It was a big problem,” said Benitez. “In terms of my decision, I was waiting and I was asking for clarity and, like the fans, we didn’t know. Eventually, you have to decide. I could not continue in the same way, because I couldn’t see how to progress. It had to be clear to me – who was the owner, what would they do – and it wasn’t clear at any time.”

Benitez emailed Lee Charnley, United’s managing director, to say he would not sign the proposed deal.

Benitez says he was given no warning of the statement’s release.

“I knew I was leaving,” said Benitez. “I had been clear in what I’d said to them. But it was the fact they didn’t say ‘OK, we understand that, and we’re putting out a statement’. It was a simple thing they could have done.”