Frustrated Benitez may quit over lack of summer moves

Newcastle fans are concerned manager Rafael Benitez would rather leave than attempt a top-flight campaign without the player resources to compete.
Newcastle fans are concerned manager Rafael Benitez would rather leave than attempt a top-flight campaign without the player resources to compete.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Fears are mounting that Rafael Benitez could walk away from Newcastle United after the breakdown of a series of transfer activities.

The English Premier League club's failure to close deals for important targets, identified and teed up for completion by their manager, has led supporters groups to worry he could quit. And those close to Benitez acknowledge that he is disillusioned by how the summer is panning out.

Last week, Tammy Abraham agreed to go to Swansea on loan, despite Benitez having sold the 19-year-old Chelsea striker the idea of being a Newcastle No. 9 and bringing a deal close to fruition several weeks ago.

The failure of Newcastle's hierarchy to seal it allowed Swansea to come in with a superior offer to the player, something avoidable in the view of the Benitez camp.

Benitez's angst has been worsened by free agent Willy Caballero deciding to join Chelsea - the goalkeeper was another player the Spaniard believed was ready to come to St James' Park.

It is also feared that the club will miss out on central defender Eliaquim Mangala, who looks set to join Lyon, and his Manchester City team-mate Fabian Delph, who appears destined for Stoke City.

Newcastle, who secured promotion to the top tier last month, have also failed to land Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina and English defender Harry Maguire, who joined Leicester from Hull last week.

Though Abraham and Caballero would not have been stellar acquisitions, they were the type of recruits regarded as necessary to ready Newcastle's squad for the season ahead.

Benitez is looking for some key signings, but also ones that add strength in depth.

He opted against a summer holiday and has been working behind the scenes since early May. But more than a month later, there are still no new faces at Newcastle.

Fans, knowing that the 57-year-old is a proud man, are concerned he would rather leave than attempt a top-flight campaign without the player resources to compete.

Talk that the club are open to offers on new investment and managing director Lee Charnley's trip to China mean that there has been less emphasis on transfers than there should have been.

However, talks are planned between Benitez and Charnley this week, and it is understood he retains hopes of resolving the situation.

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has also made the right promises over transfer funds.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2017, with the headline 'Frustrated Benitez may quit over lack of summer moves'. Print Edition | Subscribe