Time for Rafael Benitez to leave Newcastle United?
Rafael Benitez remains the only manager in world football that has won the UEFA Super Cup, Europa League, Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup. No, neither José Mourinho nor Pep Guardiola have managed the feat. Each is yet to complete the set. But after managing at the best clubs in Europe, Rafa's achievements are understandable.
Eyebrows were therefore, raised when the Spaniard decided to manage Newcastle. The situation became even more curious when the Magpies got relegated under his watch. He could easily have walked away and no one would blame him particularly because he took over a sinking ship. The damage was done before he took over and his best efforts to help could not save the club from the dreaded drop.
However, he chose to go down to the Championship with the club and take it back up. He was successful, doing it at the first time of asking. Again, he was expected by some to leave after that. But he stayed on and helped the team to a tenth-place Premier League finish despite initially struggling at the beginning of the season.
This was a huge achievement given the club's limited investment in top players. It is surprising how a manager that has been at the helm of affairs in clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid, clubs that easily splash the cash for top talents at the manager's request could cope with the limitations of Mike Ashley's Newcastle United.
The club's billionaire owner reportedly worth about £2.5 billion is unwilling to spend any more money on the club. He bared his mind to reporters last year.
“I've put my £250million into the football club. There's no more from me.
Now the club has to generate its own money,” Ashley stated.
It follows that Benitez has had to rely on player sales to fund any new acquisitions. As a result, the club was only able to spend over £19million this summer.
Stop scrolling and watch this open & honest #PLTonight chat about Newcastle United under Mike Ashley 🗣
"I feel sorry for the fans when I see what I see having played for that club."
"They're just surviving, I don't get how that's happened." 😳 https://t.co/wwqVXeX5kg
While the Spaniard could be commended for making the best of the situation by still making some relatively good signings, it remains to be seen if this will be enough come season's end.
The club was able to bring in Japanese striker Yoshinori Muto from Mainz and Colombian Salomon Rondon. Defender Federico Fernandez and Sung-Yueng Ki both joined from Swansea City. The South Korean midfielder was even snapped up for free. The loan deal for goalkeeper Martin Dubravka was turned into a permanent deal.
Although Rondon and Chelsea's Kenedy are on loan at the club, added to the above, this group adds some quality to the squad despite having a lean budget. But should a manager with such a pedigree as Benitez be pinching pennies to survive in the league when less successful colleagues like Jurgen Klopp are breaking transfer records with the Spaniard's former club?
With all due respect to Newcastle, Benitez may have looked down on himself to have taken over as manager there. His ambition is questionable at this point. If there was a big project going on like it is at Wolverhampton Wanderers under Nuno Espirito Santo, that would be understandable. But the club has not shown any ambition to achieve anything apart from staying in the Premier League.
So what is the attraction for Benitez? Does he have a lucrative contract that he can't get elsewhere? Does he hope to lead the Magpies to challenge the top four? Recent results show that is highly unlikely.
In fact, Newcastle may well suffer to retain their PL status this season. After four rounds of matches, the club lies third from the bottom. Their single point collected so far was in a goalless draw against Cardiff. A failure to beat the Welsh side that is one of the relegation favourites this season is not a good sign of things to come.
Under these circumstances, the Spaniard should be weighing his options. For a manager of his calibre, he should really be managing a top European side challenging for trophies. It is doubtful if any of Mourinho, Guardiola, Ancelotti or even Klopp will do what Benitez has done at this stage of their careers.
Don't get me wrong, Newcastle has a rich history. But at the moment, nothing historic is happening there apart from the fact that they have a top manager. Yet, he has no financial backing to succeed. Someone may need to remind him of his worth.