Mike Ashley has once again promised Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez “every penny generated by the club” as he attempts to persuade him to remain at St James’ Park.
Sunday’s 3-0 home win over Chelsea saw the Magpies end their first campaign back in the top flight with a more than creditable 10th-place finish, but with Benitez’s presence beyond the remaining 12 months of his existing contract still uncertain.
However, as the club attempts to negotiate an extension, owner Ashley has expressed his gratitude to the 58-year-old Spaniard and re-affirmed his commitment to his vision for the future.
In a statement issued a little more than two hours after the final whistle, the sportswear tycoon said: “I would like to thank Rafa Benitez for his magnificent achievement this season. I would also like to applaud the players, led fantastically by the captain Jamaal Lascelles.
“On many occasions throughout the season, they have been described as a Championship side, which I personally consider to be derogatory.
“Rafa, as always, has my full support, and contrary to some media reports that portray me as a pantomime villain, I will continue to ensure that every penny generated by the club is available to him. I hope very much that Rafa will remain at Newcastle United.
“Finally, I would like to thank the fans for their unrivalled support of Rafa and the team throughout the season.”
Ashley’s comments may be greeted with scepticism by some fans, with Benitez having been disappointed by the limits imposed upon him during the last two transfer windows, when he had hoped to strengthen his squad significantly more than he was able to do.
He has been asked repeatedly in recent weeks about his willingness to agree a longer stay on Tyneside, where he has firmly established himself in the affections of the fans since taking over in March 2016.
However, he has made no secret of his desire to see his ambition matched by the club if he is to stay, a theme to which he returned immediately after the game.
Benitez said: “If we want to achieve something, we have to understand the way to do that. You will need some money, and you will need a way to spend that money. That is the way to improve things.
“The transfer window is now very expensive and you also have to invest in the academy and the training facilities. All these things to enable you to attract players, all these things can make a difference. Maybe they will help you attract a player who turns out to be a key player.
“We have to sit down, talk and see where we are.”
Ashley has admitted he cannot afford to give his manager the kind of funds he would need to take the club to the next level and put the business up for sale in October last year as a result.
However, a takeover bid by Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners broke down in January and although Newcastle are still for sale, it is understood the price-tag has increased with another season of the Premier League’s riches secured.
Whether Ashley is able to give Benitez sufficient backing to keep him remains to be seen, and both he and the fans face an anxious wait.