Rafa Benitez on 'believing' Mike Ashley's promises at Newcastle United
Rafa Benitez hasn’t said anything. Nor has anyone at Newcastle United.
No-one’s talking. And supporters, understandably, are concerned.
Benitez is out of contract in 20 days, and the club’s players are due to report back for the start of pre-season training on July 4.
United’s manager, however, was repeatedly asked a number of questions about his future in the weeks before Newcastle’s season-ending game Fulham at Craven Cottage last month. Benitez, typically, was guarded, though his answers shed some light on his position ahead of his meeting with owner Mike Ashley.
Benitez, we know, has been considering an offer from Ashley following end-of-season talks in London.
The 59-year-old was asked if he could believe Ashley ahead of the Fulham game, which United won 4-0.
“It’s not a question of whether I believe him or not – it’s about what we’re trying to achieve,” said Benitez, forced to sell to buy last summer after refusing to sign a new deal.
“What do we have? Can we go here? We’ll see what the competition is like. I’m going to the meeting in a positive way, because we have the potential and we can do a lot of things better.
“If we do that, we’ll have more chance to be closer to the top 10.
“Do I think we can change everything in one window and be in the top six? No. Can we get closer? Yes. We can head in the right direction.”
If Benitez is yet to sign, does that mean he is not convinced he can take the club in the “right direction” with the funds Ashley is prepared to make available to him? Possibly.
Or is he more concerned about a lack of autonomy in the transfer market?
It’s also possible that Benitez isn’t prepared to sign a new contract until he knows more about the Dubai-based group, led by Sheikh Khaled, which claims it’s in the process of buying the club for £350million.
Work is going on behind the scenes at the club, but the real work can’t start until Benitez signs up, and fans fear it's becoming more a case of “if” rather than “when” he commits.