Rafa Benitez talks drag on at Newcastle, West Ham ‘close’ to appointment

Rafa Benitez. Picture by Frank Reid
Rafa Benitez. Picture by Frank Reid

Rafa Benitez’s talks with Newcastle United’s hierarchy over his transfer budget are dragging on – as David Sullivan steps up his search for a new West Ham United manager.

Benitez’s representatives are in discussions with managing director Lee Charnley.

Owner Mike Ashley wants Benitez – who has a year left on his deal at St James’s Park – to sign a new contract.

If Benitez is satisfied that the club’s ambitions match his own, then he will commit his future to Newcastle.

However, there has not yet been a breakthrough in discussions, and Benitez is on the managerial shortlist drawn up by West Ham in the wake of David Moyes’ departure.

Benitez came close to joining the club in 2015 before he took charge of Real Madrid, and he has a good relationship with West Ham co-owner Sullivan (pictured).

We are now very close to reaching an agreement. We are preparing to appoint a manager who has a proven record of success at the highest level of the game.

David Sullivan

Former Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini, now in charge of Hebei China Fortune, is understood to be West Ham’s preferred choice.

Sullivan yesterday issued a statement to the club’s supporters.

“West Ham United would like to assure supporters that the board are extremely confident of appointing a high-calibre first-team manager who has a proven record both in the Premier League and European football,” said Sullivan.

“The club expect to make an announcement within the next seven days, following a thorough and strategic process that has identified the best possible candidates.”

“I would like to reassure our supporters that we have left no stone unturned in selecting the individual we believe is the right man to take West Ham United forward.

“We have followed a process that is progressing entirely to plan, and are now very close to reaching an agreement.

“This is an exciting time for our football club. We are preparing to appoint a manager who has a proven record of success at the highest level of the game.”

Benitez – who guided Newcastle to a 10th-placed finish in the Premier League – has a £6million release clause in his contract.