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Rafa Benitez working magic at Newcastle United

Monday 23rd April 2018

The Premier League attracts the world's best managers as it does the players. Pep Guardiola has been anointed king of kings by many this season following the change he's brought to Manchester City. Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho, and Mauricio Pochettino are lauded, as well.

Meanwhile on Tyneside, Rafa Benitez has been waving a magic wand around St. James’ Park, revolutionising football at Newcastle United even with nothing but spare change from the divan in the player's lounge to spend.

Their surprise victory over Leicester City assured the Magpies Premier League football next season and also pushed the club into the table's top half. Claiming Benitez has surpassed expectations is understatement.

The 57-year-old should forever be remembered in Geordie history for this season's success. Sticking with the club following relegation, leading the club to an immediate promotion last season, and guiding the Magpies safely away from the relegation zone in spite of his tight-fisted owner is an achievement worth commending.

In December, Newcastle were enduring a miserable run. Relegation was a real fear. At Christmas, Newcastle had just 19 points. Benitez refused to lose his cool even when all seemed to be working against him, including his health. His composure has paid dividends.

Consider the man's working conditions:

  • Shoe-string budget
  • Mike Ashley telling Sky Sports he wouldn't spend without first selling
  • Heavy dependence on the loan market
  • No money in January, either
  • Just more loans
  • Rumours he would be sacked
  • Rumours the club would be sold
  • And then he would be sacked
  • Lots of Championship players
  • No Premier League star

The club is currently available on the market although there seems to be no interested buyer. Benitez has motivated his ragtag group, transforming them into a mid-table club. The limited budget and strife in the boardroom have left Benitez solely reliant on his managerial skills, coaching prowess, and ability to improve players. Fortunately, those are sizeable resources.

Jamaal Lascelles is a proof of the Spaniard’s ability to improve players. The central defender was inconsistent, always making mistakes. Under Benitez, he has emerged as a force, a true leader who could now be rewarded with a call-up to the England squad.

You cannot deny that Benitez has done a remarkable job at Newcastle, but the future is still a mystery. There are many questions that still require answers.

  • Driven by goals and ambition, will the Spaniard be content to remain with the Magpies for another year without support?
  • Is he happy to continue to live in the hurricane's eye?
  • Will Arsenal come calling?
  • What about Chelsea?

Okay, probably not Chelsea. But there is also the possibility Mauricio Pochettino leaves Tottenham. Would Rafa fit at Spurs in that eventuality? Or would he move away from the Premier League to take up a La Liga side. The man just has to make it known he is available for suitors to flock to him.

The biggest question may be whether Manchester City's late slide may convince voters to look beyond Pep Guardiola to find another deserving Manager of the Year candidate?

Adebayo Temitope

Temitope, an ardent soccer fan. I may be based in Lagos but I watch as much European football as I can. I've been writing about football for several years, before I joined IRIAW you may have seen my work on The Football Weeks. I'm also a keen music fan

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