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August 14, 2019

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Rafa cites ‘unfulfilled promises’ for Newcastle exit

Rafael Benitez has said Newcastle United’s “unfulfilled promises” during his three-year spell as manager and a loss of trust were the reasons why he left the English Premier League club last month after his contract expired.

Benitez failed to agree a contract extension with club owner Mike Ashley at the end of June and took a job with Chinese Super League club Dalian Yifang.

Newcastle managing director Lee Charnley claimed in the club’s opening weekend’s match program that Benitez had left “for money”, prompting the Spanish manager to respond and go public with his reasons for leaving.

“I tried to do my best every day, even staying when we went down to the Championship and saying ‘no’ to other offers — bigger offers than the one I recently accepted with Dalian Yifang, by the way,” he wrote in his column for The Athletic.

“If I was only interested in moving ‘for money’, as Charnley stated, I could have done it much earlier.

“Newcastle’s board had a year to sort out my contract but, when we met after the end of last season, they didn’t make me an offer I could accept.

“They told me they didn’t want to invest in the academy or the training ground... I can explain the reason why Mike Ashley refused to do that.

“Their idea of a project was a policy of signing players under 24 and... the budget available was not enough to compete for the top 10. After that meeting, I knew they would not come back with a serious offer. When it arrived, 19 days later, it was for the same salary as three years earlier and with less control over signings. After three years of unfulfilled promises, I didn’t trust them.”

Despite a relative lack of investment in the squad, Benitez defied expectations to lead Newcastle to a 10th-place finish in its first season back in the top flight and 13th last season when relegation was a distinct possibility.

“When we finished 10th in the Premier League in our first season back, all players and staff were paid a bonus — aside from my coaching team,” Benitez added.

“That felt like a punishment for me not signing an extension. So, by the end, I knew there would not be a proper offer and they knew I was not signing.

“The time was passing and we were losing job opportunities in Europe. I couldn’t wait forever. I’m a family man and I have a responsibility to them, my staff... and their families, too. I don’t like to gamble with the future of my people.”

Newcastle eventually appointed former Sunderland boss Steve Bruce as Benitez’s replacement. The Magpies lost 0-1 to Arsenal in their opener on Sunday.


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