Rafael Benítez presses Mike Ashley to change Newcastle’s transfer policy

Louise Taylor

After seven days of negotiations Rafael Benítez and Mike Ashley are still attempting to reach a deal to extend the Spaniard’s contract as Newcastle United’s manager.

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A face-to-face meeting between Benítez and the club’s owner in London last Thursday has been followed by further discussions between the manager and Lee Charnley, Newcastle’s managing director, mainly by telephone and email.

Although both sides are reluctant to part company there have been significant sticking points and the haggling could now stretch into next week.

Any finalisation of an agreement is expected to be prefaced by Ashley meeting Benítez in person for a second time and providing written guarantees of all promises. While the owner is prepared to offer his manager a sizeable transfer budget – £50m plus any cash raised from player sales next season has been mentioned – Benítez would like increased freedom to sign players aged over 25 in addition to flexibility over the wage bill.

The 59-year-old, whose contract expires on 30 June, is keen to challenge for European places and domestic cups. Among other experienced players, he is desperate to secure the permanent signing of Salomón Rondón, who scored 12 goals on loan from West Brom. The forward turns 30 in September.

Benítez has also been linked with a move for Manchester United’s Juan Mata – a playmaker, now 31, that he managed at Chelsea – but Ashley has preferred to invest in more youthful players with potentially high resale value.

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Manchester United’s interest in Newcastle’s young midfielder Sean Longstaff – something the St James’ Park hierarchy are determined to resist – highlights the need for the managerial situation to be resolved soon.

Benítez had hoped to persuade Ashley to embark on a major overhaul of Newcastle’s training ground but seems prepared to compromise and postpone such a revamp.