Rafa Benitez, we know, wants to stay at Newcastle United. And Mike Ashley wants to keep him at the club.
So what’s the problem?
Money, for one. Though this isn’t just about cash, which is something, it’s been reported, that West Ham United are willing to throw at Benitez.
Benitez wants to be given a transfer budget and trusted to do the right thing with it.
Representatives of Newcastle’s manager have been discussing “everything”, according to Benitez, with Lee Charnley, the club’s managing director. Benitez is prepared to sit down with owner Ashley for face-to-face talks if, or when, they are close to an agreement.
West Ham co-owner David Sullivan, meanwhile, has pledged to appointed a successor to David Moyes by the ed of next week.
News broke of West Ham’s interest in Benitez – who had come close to joining the club in 2015 before he took over at Real Madrid – on Wednesday night.
Did those leaks come from the London Stadium?
Manuel Pellegrini has, up to now, been the club’s first-choice target, but the 64-year-old, in charge of Hebei China Fortune, is pricing himself out of the job.
Maybe the Benitez leaks were intended to nudge Pellegrini towards a decision. Or maybe Benitez is now genuinely the club’s preferred choice. West Ham have also had talks with Paulo Fonseca, manager of Shakhtar Donetsk.
Benitez – who has a £6million release clause – has a lot of “respect” for Sullivan, something he spoke about when previously asked about the job. He trusts him.
“I have a lot of respect for West Ham, because when I was in contact with them, they were really good and professional,” said Benitez. “But I am really happy here.”
Benitez is happy at Newcastle, but he’d be much happier if he had the resources to take the club, which finished 10th in the Premier League, even higher up the table.
Ashley says Benitez can have “every penny” generated by the club. That essentially means that Benitez’s transfer funds – and money for investments in the training ground and Academy – must come from Newcastle’s profits. Ashley, it’s fair to assume, won’t change his stance. Benitez wants a figure, and he wants to get to work. But talks are dragging on, and a window has opened up for Sullivan.
But would Benitez go? West Ham looks chaotic from the outside, though that won’t necessarily put him off given his experiences elsewhere.
Money certainly talks, but Benitez’s preference is to stay at St James’s Park.
He’s loved and he’s wanted, and while he won’t necessarily let his heart rule his head, the show of support during after after Sunday’s 3-0 win over Chelsea meant a lot to him. He get the club and he gets the city.
But, as ever, it comes down to money – and that’s the worrying thing.