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Benitez speaks out

Benitez slams Mike Ashley as he breaks his silence on Newcastle exit

In Summary

•Rafa Benitez has blamed Mike Ashley and the Newcastle hierarchy for his exit

•Benitez was unhappy with the club’s strategy in the transfer market this summer

Rafael Benitez gestures in a past match with Newcastle
Rafael Benitez gestures in a past match with Newcastle
Image: / REUTERS

Rafa Benitez has slammed Mike Ashley and the Newcastle hierarchy for his departure from the club in an explosive letter to fans yesterday morning.

Benitez held nothing back when outlining the reasons behind his acrimonious exit, insisting he wanted to stay but ‘it became increasingly clear that those at the top did not share my vision’.

The Spaniard left after the club failed to agree on a new contract with him and Benitez admitted a lack of vision and long-term planning from those at the top was the reason for his exit.

He wrote: ‘Dear NUFC fans, Thank you for three fantastic, exciting and, at times, challenging years. “What we have had here - your support, your affection and your passion—has been unbelievable for me. St James’ Park has been always special, the 5-1 win against Tottenham, 15-05-2016, was so emotional that since that day I have always felt as though I belonged at Newcastle and I thank you for making me feel so welcome and at home.

“Thank you to everyone at the Club who has helped the team and of course to the fine players who grew and fought with us and to the staff (one of the best I have ever shared time with).

“From winning the Championship to our two seasons in the Premier League, fans, staff and players have all been United. I wanted to stay, but I didn’t just want to sign an extended contract, I wanted to be part of a project. Unfortunately, it became increasingly clear to me that those at the top of the Club did not share the same vision.”

“I’m very sad about that, but I do not regret for one moment my decision to come to Tyneside and I’m very proud of what we achieved together. I will always have you in my heart. Best of luck for the future. C’mon Toons!’.

According to reports, Benitez wanted close to £100m to work within the transfer market this summer and the power to offer weekly wages in excess of £100,000 for the first time. He also demanded the freedom to spend as he saw fit and at the top of his list was West Brom’s Salomon Rondon, the loanee who was Newcastle’s Player of the Season.

The club disagreed on the grounds of the striker costing £16.5m and turning 30 in September. Managing director Lee Charnley told Benitez that the model was to sign players under 25 with sell-on value. Fans were left furious at the news Benitez would be leaving and it came as the latest blow during Ashley’s ownership.

The Magpies have now launched a search for his replacement with Mikel Arteta, Roberto Martinez, Patrick Vieira and Steven Gerrard all in contention.