Newcastle United will appoint Rafa Benitez as their new manager as they look to fend off relegation from the Premier League.
That is according to Cadena COPE, who report that the Spaniard has signed a three-year deal with the relegation-threatened club.
The Daily Mail reported a similar story on Wednesday, but without the details of Benitez’s contract.
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Newcastle are yet to sack current manager Steve McClaren, who was meant to meet with managing director Lee Charnley at St James’ Park but those talks were put off.
With the club currently 19th in the table following the 3-1 loss to Bournemouth on Saturday, the decision to fire McClaren was made in a secret board meeting on Monday.
The former England manager’s position was deemed untenable following a run of five losses in six games. Newcastle are battling relegation to the Championship despite investing heavily in the squad in both transfer windows.
McClaren signed Georginio Wijnaldum (£15 million), Aleksandar Mitrovic (£13.88m), Florian Thauvin (£13.76m), Jonjo Shelvey (£12m) and Andros Townsend (£11.78m), yet Newcastle are still mired near the bottom of the table.
Tricky first game
Benitez has 10 games to save the club, who want him in charge for Monday’s clash at table-toppers Leicester.
There will be heavy financial incentives if the former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss is able to secure Premier League safety, and the club have also discussed budgets for this summer’s transfer window with the 55-year-old.
A potential stumbling block is the amount of control he will have over transfers, but those discussions can be put to one side as Newcastle seek survival.
Benitez has proven a popular appointment among supporters, as the reaction on Twitter shows.
This will be his third spell in charge of a Premier League club following stints with Liverpool and Chelsea. He is well respected in Merseyside after he guided the Reds to Champions League glory in 2005.
Yet his short stay at Chelsea was rather tense. The Spaniard was regularly booed by Blues’ fans after he admitted he would never manage the west London club and claimed fans needed flags to get behind their team.
His refusal to admit that Cristiano Ronaldo was one of the best players in the world didn’t go down well with Real Madrid fans, either. Benitez was sacked as Los Blancos manager after just seven months in January.
Here’s hoping his relationship with Newcastle’s faithful is a little less fractured.
He will immediately revere himself if he manages to avoid relegation this season. He is taking over a team short of confidence but will take solace in the fact that 17th-placed Sunderland are just one point ahead of the Toon.
The appointment of a La Liga, Champions League and Europa League winner should galvanise the Newcastle squad.