Oh no, no, no. Mike Ashley didn’t just allow Rafa Benitez to walk away from Newcastle did he? Of course the sports clothing mogul did.
If there’s one football club owner who is only in it for himself rather than the good of the club, it’s the larger-than-life Ashley.
Over the period of his tenure at St. James’ Park, the sheer number of poor decisions he and his board have made is staggering, but not reaching agreement with Benitez has to rank up there with the worst of them.
Rafa was idolised on Tyneside having repaired the disconnect of what was a broken club when he joined.
One of the best supported clubs in the Premier League, Newcastle’s ‘sleeping giant’ status is legendary.
Only briefly awoken by Kevin Keegan back in the 90s, there was genuinely belief that, given the right backing, Benitez was the man to bring back the glory days.
A continued lack of ambition from Ashley, however, that has extended to not paying Benitez what he’s worth, has ensured the Spaniard will depart when his contract runs out on June 30.
To that end, a new manager must quickly be installed and, furthermore, has to be handed the finances that the club were so keen not to give Benitez.
Jose Mourinho is the front runner, and he certainly has the mentality and cachet to appease even the most hardcore Magpies supporter.
His style of play might not be to their liking but if it brings reward, that will soon be forgotten.
From the point of view of being able to attract big names, transfer fees notwithstanding, the Special One has enough pull to get players from other clubs to seriously consider any request from the Portuguese to join.
Similarly, ask most players that have played under him, and they’ll tell you how much they enjoy his tactical acumen, drive, will to win and way of working. He has that gift to be able to make the best even better.
Is Mourinho the right choice?
However, he was unable to turn around Manchester United’s fortunes despite being heavily backed in the transfer market and was also sacked from his second spell at Chelsea after woefully under-performing.
Is he, in fact, a busted flush these days? A has been? Might Newcastle be barking up the wrong tree… again?
Assuming Ashley wants to recruit the Portuguese, who has let it be known that he would be interested, he’ll have to provide more than the £50m that he was prepared to offer Rafa as a transfer war chest.
With talks over the sale of the club potentially ongoing, it may even fall to another owner to release any funds.
What is clear is that with the right personnel and being given carte blanche to do things his way, Mourinho has a great chance to mould the team into a real force again.
Unlike at United, and to a lesser degree Chelsea, the pressure to win things won’t be immediate, though it will eventually rear its head.
Yet another remodelling job will take time to implement and he will be afforded a degree of patience by the match-going supporter.
However, they’ll not wait indefinitely and, frankly, if Jose can’t make this massive club special again, it’s unlikely anyone else will be able to.