“After three years of unfulfilled promises, I didn’t trust them.”
Rafa Benitez has offered his side of the story regarding his departure from Newcastle United. At the end of June, the European Cup-winning coach left the club after over three years as Magpies manager. He has since taken charge at Dalian Yifang.
Mike Ashley, the club’s owner, has since stated in an interview that Benitez took “the soft option” by joining the Chinese side and doubling his salary. According to Ashley, it would have been “impossible” to retain Rafa, as the coach’s main priority was money.
Lee Charnley, Newcastle’s managing director, echoed Ashley’s sentiments in the matchday programme for the team’s opening game of the season on Sunday against Arsenal. Charley wrote that the club had done everything possible to keep Benitez at the club, but they could not match the salary on offer at Dalian Yifang.
However, Rafa has fired back. According to the former Liverpool coach, money was not a factor in his decision, and he left because he did not “trust” the club’s owner.
“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,” Benitez writes in his column for The Athletic.
“If I was only interested in moving ‘for money’, as Charnley stated, I could have done it much earlier.”
Benitez also wrote that the club never made him a “proper offer” or promise to improve the facilities.
“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 a proper offer,” he writes.
“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,” Benitez states.
The former Real Madrid manager also writes that his coaching staff did not receive a bonus when the club finished 10th in the Premier League. He says that his decision to take the job in China was influenced by his “responsibility” to his coaching staff and his family.
“I couldn’t explain that in public because I was not allowed to talk to the press without their permission, so I was waiting until late June, like every fan, hoping there would be good news about Newcastle’s prospective takeover,” Rafa writes.
You can read his column here.