This damaging stand-off at Newcastle United MUST end – and quickly

What. A. Joke. Only Newcastle United fans aren’t laughing.

By Miles Starforth
Tuesday, 18 June, 2019, 23:00

Rafa Benitez is out of contract in 11 days, and still nothing. Nothing at all.

No new deal. No takeover. No comment. No hope?

Rafa Benitez.

Fans are wondering if there’s any hope for the new season.

The team has a kit – the new home shirt was launched today – but we still don’t know who will be the manager when the players report back for pre-season training on July 4. And we still don’t know whether Mike Ashley will still be the owner when the team takes to the field for the season-opener against Arsenal.

Benitez, wanted by Chinese side Dalian Yifang, doesn’t want to leave St James’s Park. He made that clear last season. Yet there’s a very real danger he will leave at the end of the month when his contract expires because of Ashley’s intransigence.

The 59-year-old, forced to buy to sell last summer after refusing to sign a new deal before getting guarantees over investment, wanted a defined budget and more autonomy in the transfer market.

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Mike Ashley.

Benitez – who met Ashley for talks in London last month – hasn’t yet been given the assurances he wants. There’s a stand-off, and there are no signs of it ending. The situation, of course, is complicated by ongoing takeover talks with the Dubai-based Bin Zayed Group, led by Sheikh Khaled.

There are suggestions in the United Arab Emirates that a £350million sale is close, though we know little about Sheikh Khaled apart from his reputation in the Middle East as a driven businessman.

Newcastle, meanwhile, have made no comment, while Benitez has been silent since a round of sponsored interviews ahead of the Champions League final between Liverpool, his former club, and Tottenham Hotspur.

United, put simply, must keep their manager. He’s the glue which has stuck the club together in the last three years of Ashley’s troubled ownership. Things can quickly come unstuck.

Benitez is stubborn. So too is Ashley. But this damaging stand-off needs to end before is further harms the club.