Newcastle United takeover: Why 'no comment' and silence is no bad thing as Rafa Benitez saga rumbles on

Newcastle United remain in summer limbo.

By Liam Kennedy
Tuesday, 11th June 2019, 6:00 pm
Rafael Benitez Manager / head coach of Newcastle United  during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on April 01, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
Rafael Benitez Manager / head coach of Newcastle United during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on April 01, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Mike Ashley's tenure as owner is under threat, with Middle Eastern raiders looking to snatch control of United from under the Sports Direct tycoon's wing. On the managerial front, Spaniard Rafa Benitez remains undecided on his own future, understandably so.

While all the talk has come from one end, with two separate statements and a two-word reply reported on, there has been a vacuum created on Tyneside.

Never has a yearning for information from the football club been so strong, but a silence so deafening.

The Gazette has asked on numerous occasions asked for comment from Newcastle and the Premier League. 'No comment' is the response.

Social media has been taken by storm with the hashtag #nocomment, so too has #nufcfakeover, I mean #nufctakeover.

To get an understanding on where things are at the Gazette has spoken to a football insider - someone known as a finance and transfer expert, who has had involvement in one high profile Premier League takeover and has mixed in the same circles as manager Benitez and owner Mike Ashley in the past.

His take on things makes for interesting reading. While many fans see the silence as a negative, he sees it as the exact opposite.

Ashley does not like air his dirty laundry in public, hence why he was so angered by the Amanda Staveley saga. This could be one reason the communications have stopped, even from the other side.

The Bin Zayed Group, as well as Ashley, may well also be tied into a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA. This is common practice in this procedure.

While proof of funds may or may not have been shown, and a deal in principle may have been agreed, this does not stop the bargaining chips being sought, as per our source.

His experience of Premier League takeovers is that these things can be a game of toing and froing. Even after proof of funds, the various tests from governing bodies and an agreement in principle, the goalposts can, and often are, changed. It might not be the £350m reported fee, and any deal could include any number of caveats. 

It could include none, but a deal for Sports Direct signs to remain, albeit immensely unpopular with fans, and likely a prospective new owner, could well come on the table, or already be firmly set on it.

Buyer and prospective seller could well be tied by legal red tape. Just because nothing is being said, does not mean nothing is being done.

And that brings the topic on to Benitez. 

Today brought the news of reported interest from former club Chelsea in Benitez, while another door closed with AS Roma appointing a manager.

Every top job that's vacant a manager of Rafa's ilk will be linked with. He's a man who commands respect for his achievements, even if he is outside the European limelight, where he craves to return with United, or someone else.

The most important thing in the whole Benitez saga is that he so desperately wants to stay at St James's Park. 

Whatever is said about the locality to his Merseyside-based family unit, the Spaniard is a workaholic, and like many others, he loves to be loved. United gives him that. He can shape and mould as he sees fit, even with one hand tied behind his back, and the fans adore him for it. Players love him for it. Mike Ashley even loves him for it, even if it is just to keep his pockets lined.

The view of our football insider is that Benitez is right to keep his options open.

Why would he sign a deal with limited spending agreements, when new owners could change the landscape.

Again, in his view, this should not be seen as totally negative by fans. While it is frustrating not to see Benitez commit his future to the club, he has to know what kind of future that may be. It's like taking a job with one set of parameters, knowing they could well be ripped up in four weeks time.

The fact Benitez, just 19 days away from the end of his present deal, has not yet walked, and is willing to hang on to the last, could well be a sign things are on-going, and the manager, seen as the ultimate footballing politician, is simply biding his time before deciding which side of the line he places himself on.

So, all told, the infamous 'no comment' response might not be the worst thing after all. But without comment, on or off the record, how are we supposed to know. 


What have the Bin Zayed Group have said?

May 27 – confirmation. In a statement they said: “We can confirm the representatives of his Highness Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan are in discussions with Mike Ashley about the proposed acquisition of Newcastle United.” May 29 – clarification (well, sort of). “The proof of funds statement was forwarded to Mike Ashley’s lawyers on 17 April 2019. "The so called fit-and-proper Premier League process... will take time. We are doing all we can to assist the Premier League during this process.”