Rafael Benítez’s future at Newcastle United will be determined when he sits down for talks with Mike Ashley, the club’s owner, in the next 10 days.
Benítez is happy on Tyneside and hopes to remain in charge at St James’ Park but will require reassurances about his spheres of autonomy and transfer budget before committing to staying on.
Ashley did not immediately congratulate the manager after Newcastle achieved automatic promotion to the Premier League by defeating Preston North End 4-1 on Monday night, but Benítez has now received a warm call from the sports retail magnate.
“He has congratulated me, yes,” said the former Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid manager, who will present Ashley with detailed business plans he has already drawn up for next season. Benítez would, ideally, like to sign around eight new players. “I will have a meeting with him in the coming days. We will discuss the future of the club, the future of myself and everything.
“I am quite confident everything will be fine but I need to talk to Mike and whether I’m optimistic depends on how things go. At the moment I’m quite happy. We will do our best to make sure we have a competitive team next season.”
Benítez revealed that a large part of his telephone conversation with Ashley was dominated by the shock of events on Wednesday, when officers from HM Revenue and Customs raided St James’ Park and the training ground as well as arresting Lee Charnley, Newcastle’s managing director, as part of an ongoing, and wide-ranging, investigation into suspected criminal tax fraud in professional football in England and France.
Charnley was released without charge on Wednesday evening and Benitez said he had been drafting pre-season plans with him on Thursday morning.
“A friend was telling me that we were lucky that we were promoted already – so I will take the positive,” Benítez said. “I had a conversation with Mike Ashley and it was quite positive. He was really pleased for the promotion of the team and, like me and everyone else, disappointed with the investigation.
“It is something we have no control over but at the moment I am quite positive, the conversation with him [Ashley] was quite positive, he was congratulating me and the staff and everyone.
“It’s very simple: he’s the owner, so it depends on him what we will do. He needs to know my ideas and I need to know what he’s thinking and we have to talk about everything.”
Perhaps surprisingly it will be only the second time Benítez and Ashley have met in person since the latter persuaded the Spaniard to stay on as manager in the Championship. “The first time that I met Mike Ashley, it was very positive, this time when I was in contact with him by phone, I had a very honest and open conversation with Mike and he was quite positive and everything was fine,” the Spaniard said. “Now we have to sit down and discuss everything.
“How much money have we to spend? What can we do if we sell players? Which players will stay, which players will leave? I’m not the kind of manager saying ‘I want this and that is it’, I will try and argue why we need this. I will give him my ideas and explanations. My vision of the club’s potential. He wants to win and if we win trophies it is always positive.”