Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez looks to be on a collision course with owner Mike Ashley again over the club’s transfer activity (or lack thereof) this summer.
The Magpies have brought in Jacob Murphy, Javi Manquillo, Florian Lejeune and the loan signing of Dortmund’s Mikel Merino but Benitez has long stressed the need for further investment in the playing squad ahead of their return to the Premier League this season.
Speaking to Sky Sports at the launch of the new Premier League season on Wednesday, Benitez voiced his frustration at what has been a difficult transfer window for the club – though does accept that prices this year have been far higher than what has come before:
“It is very hard, the prices are crazy. We missed some targets at the beginning and we’re paying for that. Hopefully, we can find solutions and bring what we need. It’s not what you want, it’s what you need.
“I’m not totally happy with what we did, but I will try to do my best. I am trying to do my best right now. It is something you cannot control but at the moment I am fully committed to doing the best that I can.”
His comments echo similar remarks he made after Newcastle’s final pre-season game of the summer last Saturday (a 2-0 win over Hellas Verona), the Spaniard suggested that has been misled about how much money the club were going to spend this summer and didn’t sound overly optimistic that he would get what he wants before the end of the transfer window:
“When I decided to stay I was expecting another thing. Now we are where we are.
“I decided to stay because of a lot of positive things I could see starting with the fans. Now I will try to do my best to be sure that the team we have will be good enough to compete and stay as high as we can in the Premier League.
“We are trying to move players out to bring players in. We know what we need. We are looking at different options. If we can’t get one, we have to look at others.
“We know what we need and will try to do this until the end of the transfer window. We are trying to go in different directions at the same time.”
While this is not the first time that Benitez has attempted to publicly pressure Ashley into giving him more money for players, the owner is playing a dangerous game by not complying. Benitez is a popular figure at St. James’ Park – far more popular than Ashley – and losing the former Liverpool manager (at any point but particularly at this stage of the season) would see his approval rating plummet past basement level.
And if Ashley thinks Benitez is bluffing, the events surrounding his Valencia departure in 2004 should make the Sports Direct owner think again.
On this week’s episode of the Mixer Irish Football Podcast, we chat to former Bray Wanderers media officer Jillian Godsil, give our take on the ‘barstooler’ debate as well as review and preview the latest League of Ireland action.