Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has hit out at former Magpies boss Rafa Benitez outlining that the Spaniard “took the soft option” by leaving the club and going to China.
Benitez had been in charge at St James’ Park for three and a half-years but opted to leave in June at the end of his current contract, before taking up a role with Chinese club Dalian Yifang.
The Spaniard had done a tremendous job at Newcastle leading them to promotion from the Championship as well as two mid-table finishes despite operating on a shoestring budget for the majority of his tenure.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Ashley outlined that he felt Benitez’s sole focus was on money and that the club didn’t come first for their former boss.
“If you come out and say the things he did you would think it was football club first, Rafa second, money third. I’d say it was money first, Rafa, then the club last. He took the totally soft option, took the money and went to China.
“That disappoints me. If he’d gone back to Real Madrid, or a top six club in the Premier League, I get it. But it was about money and all he had to do was say that from the beginning.
“My view always was we had to keep Rafa. For my own personal safety we had to keep Rafa. I thought he had us offside, he had us cornered, it wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right, I’ve been totally out-manoeuvred, I probably shouldn’t own a football club, it’s ridiculous, but I’m a big boy.”
Ashley then continued explaining that he wasn’t disappointed in Benitez’s role as a manager during his time at the club however he claimed it was “impossible” to accomodate his demands and keep him at St James’ Park.
“Yet every time with Rafa it was impossible – there was always another thing, and the next thing, and the next thing. He asked for a 50 per cent pay increase and I think he did that because he knew it couldn’t work. And if we had agreed to that, I think it would have been something else.
“And everyone thinks we lost him because we wouldn’t pay a couple of quid more. He had the microphone and we didn’t.
“I’m not disappointed in him as a manager – he did an excellent job. It puzzles me why any fan thinks I wouldn’t want him. I’m not the thickest person on the planet. Why wouldn’t I want excellence? Why wouldn’t I want this manager? Accuse me of many things, but not that. We couldn’t have done any more.”