Rafa Benitez could return as Newcastle United manager

Rafael Benitez remains the preferred choice of manager if Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners group successfully resurrect their Saudi Arabia-backed takeover of Newcastle United.

However, despite leaving his position in charge of Chinese side Dalian Professional at the weekend, there is no chance of Benitez being offered a return to St James’ Park under the current regime, even if Mike Ashley decides to dismiss Steve Bruce in the next few weeks.

Benitez made an acrimonious departure from Tyneside a year-and-a-half ago, with tensions between the Spaniard and the Newcastle board evident long before the two parties were unable to agree the terms of a new deal.

Ashley remains reluctant to dismiss Bruce despite Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Aston Villa stretching Newcastle’s winless run to ten matches, but while the current boss will remain in position for tomorrow’s crucial home game with Leeds United, he will not be indulged forever if results do not begin to improve.

However, even if Ashley was to find himself looking for a new manager, he would not consider reappointing Benitez given the deterioration in the pair’s relationship in the months leading up to 2019’s parting of the ways.

The situation would change at a stroke if Staveley was able to finally push through her proposed takeover at St James’ Park. The North Yorkshire financier’s attempts to buy out Ashley, funded in part by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), are currently on ice, with Newcastle involved in an ongoing arbitration case against the Premier League.

If the governing body can be persuaded to change their stance and ratify the PIF’s involvement, a scenario that would become more likely if the ongoing thawing of diplomatic relations between the Saudi state and Qatar, who operate the BeIN television channel, continue, there is a chance Ashley could depart before the end of the season.

Staveley has been close to Benitez and his representatives for a number of years, and would be keen to offer the 60-year-old a return to Tyneside. Benitez, who has already been linked with a possible move to Celtic, confirmed his exit from Dalian stating: “Unfortunately, like so many things in the last year, Covid-19 has changed our lives and projects.”

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