Rafael Benítez will meet Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley next week to discuss how to move forward following the club’s return to the Premier League and is likely to be offered a transfer budget of around £70 million.
Benítez will warn huge improvements need to be made to the squad that won promotion if he is going to make sure Newcastle stay clear of relegation trouble and expects to be backed with the funds to do things properly. He also wants to be assured that Ashley’s ambition matches his own in the medium to long term.
Newcastle had battled against the drop for two years before the Spaniard arrived as manager in March 2016 and he will make it clear he has no interest in staying if financial restrictions mean the club’s first and only priority is to survive in the Premier League.
Benítez has already identified a number of transfer targets, including Arsenal defender Adam Chambers, who has been on loan at Middlesbrough, as well as Everton midfielder James McCarthy and Fulham’s Tom Cairney and believes as many as eight new signings are needed to radically raise the standard of the first team squad.
Ashley appreciates the need to bring players in, but is wary of any extravagant transfer demands and it is likely Benítez will have to lower his expectations, at least for next season, if he is going to remain at St James’ Park.
If the former Real Madrid manager refuses to negotiate a mutually acceptable budget, he may find he is left with no alternative but to quit just weeks after securing promotion.
Telegraph Sport understands Ashley is unwilling to put in any more of his own money, after injecting more than £30m this season to help cover the cost of running a Premier League budget in the Championship. Indeed, he may even seek to recoup some of those interest free loans.
Benítez has so far refused to put a definite figure on what he feels the club needs to spend this summer although it is thought he will want a minimum of £70m, which can be topped up through player sales.
Promotion will swell Newcastle’s income by around £100m a year, but given the wage bill will also increase, Benítez will be told he cannot have everything he wants immediately.
Instead, he will be asked to develop a gradual plan of improvement, with Ashley set to stress that he does not want to fall back into the same trap of limiting the club’s ambition to being a stable, mid-table Premier League outfit. The willingness to allow the manager the freedom to try and win a cup competition will also not be altered.
Benítez 's other chief concern is that he continues to have complete control of the football side of the business and he will seek assurance he still has the freedom to sign the players he wants, regardless of age and potential resale value. The role of chief scout Graham Carr will also be discussed.
Ashley has only spoken to Benítez directly twice, once last summer when he persuaded him to stay after relegation and again last week to congratulate him on promotion, where he also agreed to a face-to-face meeting to discuss their future relationship.
Benítez was upset in January when he was prevented from signing any players, even though he believed there was £30m to spend following the sale of Moussa Sissoko to Tottenham back in August. The tension has lingered, with Benítez keen to clarify his terms of his employment before committing to another campaign.
Encouragingly, club sources have indicated that both men want the relationship to work, although they have stressed Ashley will not be held to ransom, regardless of Benítez’s popularity with supporters.