Newcastle United have announced ‘with disappointment’ that contract negotiations with Rafa Benitez have reached an impasse and that the Spanish coach will leave his position as manager later this month.
In an official statement, the club said:
“We have worked hard to extend Rafa’s contract over a significant period of time, however it has not been – and will not be – possible to reach an agreement with Rafa and his representatives.
Rafa’s coaching staff, Paco de Míguel Moreno, Antonio Gómez Pérez and Mikel Antia, will also leave the club on 30th June.
We would like to thank Rafa and his coaching team for their efforts over the last three years and their significant contribution to what has been collectively achieved.
We would also like to thank our supporters, players and staff for their patience during a period of uncertainty.
The process to appoint a successor will now begin.”
Newcastle had hoped to tie Benitez down to a new long-term contract at St James’ Park ahead of the 2019/20 season, but despite lengthy talks, an agreement couldn’t be reached with the 59-year old.
Benitez guided Newcastle to a respectable 13th-place finish in the Premier League last season against a backdrop of boardroom turmoil, takeover speculation and deep, acerbic divisions between the club’s fanbase and controversial owner Mike Ashley.
Already, Newcastle’s fans have taken to social media in droves to express their disgust at how their club and Ashley have handled Benitez’s contract situation.
With the club’s players on the cusp of returning for pre-season training, Newcastle now face the prospect of preparing for the new Premier League campaign without a first team manager.
Time is of the essence, and Newcastle will be aiming to have Rafa Benitez’ replacement in place as quickly as possible. Let’s take a look at some of the candidates who are in line to take the reins at St. James’ Park.
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Mikel Arteta – 5/1
Manchester City assistant manager Mikel Arteta is the bookmakers’ early favourite to succeed Benitez as Newcastle manager, though it remains to be seen just how open the 37-year old would be to the idea of taking over a club in such dissaray.
Arteta had been strongly linked with the Arsenal job last summer before the Gunners chose to appoint the more experienced Unai Emery. Arteta was happy to reprise his role at City in 2018/19, though his interest in taking the reins at Arsenal suggests that he could be ready to make the jump if the right offer or opportunity came along.
Jose Mourinho – 13/2
Although his reputation has taken something of a battering following his ill-fated recent stints at Chelsea and Manchester United, Jose Mourinho was linked with Newcastle United earlier this summer when rumours of a money-spinning takeover of the club were rife.
The rumours suggested that Mourinho was intrigued by the idea of using the wealth of a Dubai based billionaire to build a world-class Newcastle United team, but when news of the takeover cooled, the gossip linking Mourinho to Newcastle seemed to evaporate.
However, now that the managerial position at St. James’ Park is officially available, Mourinho could revive his interest in taking over at the club.
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Chris Hughton – 8/1
The bookmakers’ also think that recently axed ex-Brighton manager Chris Hughton could be in contention to make a sensational St. James’ Park return this summer.
Hughton enjoyed a successful, but short spell as Newcastle boss between 2009 and 2010 before he fell victim to Mike Ashley’s notorious impulsivity.
Hughton led Newcastle to an emphatic Championship title win in 2009/10, but after a good start to the 2010/11 Premier League season, the former Republic of Ireland international was controversially sacked in December with the club sitting in 9th position.
While out of work Hughton would certainly be a financially viable option for Newcastle, convincing the 60-year old to work under Mike Ashley again could prove impossible.
Eddie Howe – 10/1
Despite his incredible achievements during his time at Bournemouth, Cherries’ boss Eddie Howe has thus far failed to attract much concrete interest from bigger clubs looking to fill managerial vacancies.
Since rejoining the club in 2012, the 41-year old has transformed Bournemouth from perennial also-rans into Premier League regulars – and Howe masterminded that incredible Cherries metamorphosis on a shoestring budget.
Tipped to sign a bumper new deal with Bournemouth at the start of last season, Howe held off on penning a new contract, and his current deal is due to expire at the end of the 2019/20 campaign.
With little compensation required to release him from his Cherries contract and his ability to construct a competitive Premier League team with meagre finances established, Howe fits the kind of low-cost profile that Mike Ashley would favour in his search for a new Newcastle manager.
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