Newcastle United takeover does NOT hinge on Rafa Benitez future as Bin Zayed Group bid concerns revealed
Ben Jacobs, a Dubai-based journalist who works for BeINSports, ESPN and is talkSPORT's Middle East correspondent, claims sources close to United's prospective new owners do not expect any deal to be done before June 30, the day Spaniard Benitez's deal expires.
Reports over the Bank Holiday in the national press claimed Sheikh Khaled had completed the purchase of United from Mike Ashley, bringing an end to 12 years of ownership by the Sports Direct tycoon.
That was quickly followed by a statement from Midhat Kidwai, group managing director, Bin Zayed Group, confirming the story.
It read: "We can confirm the representatives of his Highness Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan are in discussions with Mike Ashley and his team about the proposed acquisition of Newcastle United Football Club.
“We view it as an honour to have the opportunity to build on the strong support, history and tradition of the club.
“We have agreed terms and are working hard to complete the transaction at the earliest opportunity.
But claims and counter-claims have since have cast doubt on the story and claims of the interested party - although the Gazette understands a number of booking slots have been taken up on Friday, unexpectedly, for private jets from the UAE at Newcastle Airport. It is not known whether these have any connection to the takeover process.
And Jacobs expressed his own concerns, while stating that Benitez remaining was not something which was make or break for any deal, rumoured to be for around £350million.
On Twitter, Jacobs said: "Bin Zayed Group sources say they don’t expect a takeover to be complete before Benitez’s contact expires on June 30. Will be on Mike Ashley (and the impending lure of a possible new owner. If that happens) to persuade him to stay.
"Notion Sheikh Nehayan wants Benitez to stay as a priority is also solely based on a respect for him from his Liverpool and Real Madrid days and a meeting just before he joined Chelsea. But Wenger, with links to the UAE, and Mourinho are also out of work...
"Point is Bin Zayed Group are making it clear their priority is to acquire the club not decide on a manager. They see no reason to replace Benitez, but also accept he may go before they arrive."
Referring to the speed of any takeover, he added: "Just one more thing to add: ‘quick’ takeovers can still be slow. Terms seem to have been agreed (according to the BZG statement), but it doesn’t appear due diligence is fully complete, proof of funds haven’t been provided and Ramadan will inevitably slow the process down, too.
"I think a lot hinges on proof of funds. But at the moment NUFC insiders appear sceptical. This hardly suggests an imminent official announcement. But as those who have lived in the UAE will attest, things can move at super- or snail- speed and thus change very quickly."