Rafael Benitez has hit back at claims from Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley that he left Newcastle to ‘take the money’ in China.
The Spanish manager left St James’ Park upon the expiry of his contract at the end of last season after failing to agree new terms with the Magpies.
Benitez was unveiled as the new boss of CSL side Dalian Yifang shortly after and Newcastle owner Ashley has since suggested that was his plan all along.
Lee Charnley leant his weight to those claims in the matchday programme for Newcastle’s Premier League opener against Arsenal on Sunday – the first match in charge for Benitez’s replacement Steve Bruce.
“We understand and expected the disappointment that Rafa’s departure caused,” Charnley wrote. “We strongly believed we went beyond what we could reasonably be asked in order to keep him.
“But let’s be clear, he moved to China for money.”
But in an exclusive column for The Athletic, Benitez has offered his side of the story, saying he left the club because he no longer trusted the board.
“People in Newcastle have been talking about my decision to move to China without knowing what happened behind the scenes during my three years at St James’ Park,” he wrote.
I haven’t wanted to say too much about that — I’ve encouraged supporters to get behind Steve Bruce and his new team — but I’ve been made aware of what Lee Charnley, Newcastle’s managing director, claimed in the club’s match programme last weekend and I think it’s important I address that.
“When I joined Newcastle in 2016, I did it with all my heart. I could feel the history and see the potential of the club and I wanted to be part of a project and to stay close to my family on Merseyside.
“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. 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 — if they like, 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, in my opinion, 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 and, when it arrived, 19 days later, it was for the same salary as three years earlier and with less control over signings. Charnley’s comments in the programme about having a deal agreed for Joelinton in February explains a lot that I couldn’t understand at that time.
“After three years of unfulfilled promises, I didn’t trust them.”