Rafael Benitez and Newcastle remain in talks more than a week after the Spaniard could have walked away from St James’ Park; that has to be a good sign, right?
Neither the 56-year-old nor the Magpies have activated the release clause in the three-year contract they negotiated back in March should the club be relegated from the Barclays Premier League.
Instead, discussions which began after Sunderland ‘s victory over Everton on May 11 confirmed Newcastle’s drop into the Sky Bet Championship are ongoing with both parties hopeful that formal agreement will be reached sooner rather than later.
Indeed, work is continuing behind the scenes on the basis that that will be the case with the first tranche of players due to return for pre-season training on June 28, six days after the Championship fixtures are announced.
Some supporters have grown anxious at the delay in confirming Benitez’s continued presence or otherwise, although sources close to the talks have insisted there is nothing sinister in the protracted nature of the negotiations, which were always expected to last weeks rather than days.
The fact that the former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager did not exercise his right to walk away in the immediate aftermath of relegation is a reflection both of the effect public support for his appointment has had on him, and his belief that he can restore the club’s fortunes given the right backing.
Newcastle too have been impressed with Benitez’s early work, even if his initial rescue mission did come up short, and a club which has found itself at loggerheads with large sections of its support for much of owner Mike Ashley’s reign to date is keen to harness a rare dose of positivity from its latest brush with adversity.
That said, the manager has sought assurances over the extent of his remit with player recruitment and disposal a major focus, while club officials need to assess whether or not his ideas are workable within their model, albeit one which would have to change significantly from the one they have employed in recent seasons.
That process is yet to reach its conclusion, although with big decisions to be made over which players are to be retained – should they want to stay – which are surplus to requirements and transfer targets to be pursued, the sooner it does, the better.
Benitez has already started to identify potential signings should he remain in post, perhaps an indication of his mindset, although he is well aware that other jobs could become available over the next few weeks and months.