The 59-year-old’s contract runs out at the end of the week, having been at the helm at St James’ Park for the last three seasons since replacing Steve McLaren in March 2016. The Spaniard, who has been held in affection by the Newcastle supporters after sticking with the club following their relegation and leading them back into the Premier League, had been locked in contract negotiations throughout the second half of the 2018/19.
But failure to assure Benitez of the club’s future direction by owner Mike Ashley, combined with the ongoing talks to sell the club and lack of transfer business, convinced Benitez that his future lies elsewhere, and the club issued a statement on Monday afternoon to confirm his departure.
It read: “It is with disappointment that we announce manager Rafael Benitez will leave Newcastle United upon the expiry of his contract on June 30, 2019.
“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 Miguel Moreno, Antonio Gomez Perez and Mikel Antia, will also leave the club on June 30.”
Benitez has been linked with the vacant Chelsea manager’s job in what would be a surprise return to Stamford Bridge, though current Derby County manager Frank Lampard remains the frontrunner to replace Maurizio Sarri.
The former Liverpool boss has also been targeted by clubs in China, but he is known to prefer to stay in Europe and, in particular, the Premier League.
Newcastle meanwhile do not have a replacement lined up after remaining hopeful that Benitez would eventually extend his contract, but The Independent understands that the recently-available Garry Monk is not in the running despite his sacking by Birmingham City. Eddie Howe, the current Bournemouth manager, and the available Alan Pardew are both being linked with the role, but the early bookmakers’ favourite is current Manchester City No 2 Mikel Arteta who may be persuaded to leave Pep Guardiola’s side to make his first foray into management.
“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,” the club statement continued.
“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.”