How Benitez was persuaded to stay with Newcastle


In the queues to the turnstiles and inside the stadium, the song of Rafa Benitez, to the tune of La Bamba, was being repeated over and over. Two girls walked through the crowds to get to the main entrance to the main stand of Anfield; Claudia and Agata Benitez.

In a second half fightback, Newcastle would score twice and earn a 2-2 draw. The songs did not stop.

Later that night, back at the family home in the Wirral that Benitez's family did not leave when he went to either Napoli or Real Madrid, the two girls spoke to their father.

“Dad, you cannot leave these people,” they told him. “They love you. You have to stay.”

Now, a manager with 12 titles to his name and with a Champions League medal from 2005, has joined the recently relegated Newcastle United. He will sign a three-year deal. On the first day of the 2015/16 season, he walked out as manager of Real Madrid at Sporting Gijon. He could start the 2016/17 in the Pirelli Stadium at Burton.

The impact of a support who have taken Benitez to their heart cannot be understated. It has echoes of Keegan's first time at Newcastle in 1982, an unexpected opportunity to save a struggling football club.

After the final day of the season victory against Tottenham at St James' Park, a game which saw Newcastle relegated to the Championship, Benitez was asked about the reception he had received throughout the afternoon.

“I was flattered with the fans and everything here,” he said.

“I am really pleased with the fans and the staff and the people here in the club. My heart is telling me yes, it's a great opportunity, a great city and club. The brain has to say we will analyse and after we will decide.

“I am really opens to talk. I have been so many years in football now. After all that time I want to be sure the people love you and enjoy it and if you work hard they will recognise you are working your best. We have all these things here.

“I know every day when I walk in the streets or restaurants or people in the hotel, everybody is so positive and encouraging. That is what I am really open to keep talking.”

Talks had in fact already began by then.

On 11 May, Newcastle were relegated when Sunderland beat Everton 3-0 at the Stadium of Light, thus ensuring their own survival.

The following day, from nine o'clock at Newcastle's training ground, the club's managing director Lee Charnley and Benitez opened their first round of talks. The talks lasted all day.

Benitez told Charnley he wanted full control and a transfer budget in writing to create the best squad in the Championship.

Charnley, who had resisted calls for his resignation in the immediate aftermath of relegation, sought to meet the demands. Talks continued and on Sunday -after a week in which the Evening Chronicle, Tyneside's paper, had led a petition for Benitez to stay -the former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Napoli manager met Mike Ashley, the owner of Newcastle, who had been at a game for the first time in 2016.

Ashley is said to have laid out his desire for Benitez to stay, and to provide the framework for him to work in.

Newcastle had faced repeated criticism of their desire to sign players under the age of 25 from across the cheaper markets in Europe scouted by Graham Carr, the de facto director of football, who would have resale value. They had neglected key areas of the team, despite spending £120 million in the previous four transfer windows. There was not a recognised goalscorer bought during that spurge.

Benitez asked for control. He was assured he would get it. Carr is now expected to leave.

That process saw the talks go on and there were further meetings between Charnley and Benitez.

Charnley is thought to have gone to Shirebrook, the home of Ashley's Sports Direct, for further talks last week.

There was a delay for key documents to be signed. Tyneside worried with the wait, but then on Wednesday morning, it became clear that everything was done. Benitez was heading to Tyneside on a three-year contract.

It will have gone down well with his daughters that he has chosen to stay as the manager of Newcastle United, but the reaction is nothing compared to the delight amongst the club's fans.

The Independent

Original source: How Benitez was persuaded to stay with Newcastle