A couple of hours after the club secured a total Premier League payout of £125.9million, Mike Ashley broke his silence.
Newcastle United published a rare statement from Ashley hours after Sunday’s 3-0 win over Chelsea.
Ashley congratulated Rafa Benitez and his players for their “magnificent achievement” of finishing 10th, and also praised the club’s fans for their “unrivalled support”.
No argument there.
It was a magnificent achievement. And the support was unrivalled.
But this was the interesting bit.
“Rafa, as always, has my full support, and contrary to some media reports that portray me as a pantomime villain, I will continue to ensure that every penny generated by the club is available to him,” said Ashley.
“I hope very much that Rafa will remain at Newcastle United.”
So Ashley’s a remainer.
Newcastle’s fans made their feelings clear too during the game when they chanted “Rafa Benitez, we want you to stay”.
I hope very much that Rafa Benitez will remain at Newcastle United.Mike Ashley
When it comes to football, the club’s supporters are remainers too.
But they can do little but voice their support.
Ashley – who put the club up for sale late last year – can do more.
The billionaire’s pledge to make “every penny generated by the club” available to Ashley caught the eye, though Alan Shearer labelled it a “copy and paste” job from a previous statement.
“Copy and paste, different day,” said Shearer on Match of the Day. “Give him some money to spend.”
So what does “every penny” really mean?
That’s hard to say, though it definitely doesn’t mean every penny of the TV payout.
The bulk of that will go towards wages and running costs.
A report at the weekend claimed that Benitez would be handed “up to £80million” to spend.
That’s not right, either.
Benitez – whose representatives have held talks with managing director Lee Charnley over a new contract and the club’s summer transfer budget – will do well to get half that figure.
With Ashley unwilling to put any more money in, the club must generate its own money for Benitez, as the statement says.
But it must also pay wages and running costs, so, essentially, transfer funds must come out of any surplus.
So we’re most likely looking at tens of millions of pounds plus, potentially, money from player sales.
Is that enough to persuade Benitez to stay?
United’s manager also wants total control of how the transfer pot is spent and investment in Newcastle’s training ground and Academy, though it is unlikely the profits alone could fund improvements in both the club’s squad and infrastructure.
The priority is the first team.
Speaking ahead of the Chelsea game, Benitez said: “I have experience.
“You can have a lot of projects, but if thre first team is not winning, then it’s not working.
“Always I say, it’s a train. It’s a train and you have the engine and the carriages.
“You can put marketing, commercial, this, that, the Academy, but if you don’t have power here (at the front), the train doesn’t go.”
Newcastle, really, is one big project.
It’s perect for Benitez, but he really will need every last penny.