The Athletic's Chris Waugh has revealed that Newcastle's new owners wanted to bring Rafael Benitez back to the club to replace Steve Bruce.
Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) now have an 80% stake in the North-East club, and they were interested in making a statement by handing Benitez a second spell in the dugout at St James' Park.
What's the latest news involving Benitez?
Benitez previously took charge of Newcastle between 2016 and 2019, and made a significant impression on Tyneside.
Having been unable to keep the team in the Premier League when he first arrived, the Spanish coach made amends by leading the club to promotion from the Championship at the first time of asking.
He then guided Newcastle to 10th and 13th-place finishes, respectively, back in the top-flight, before leaving the Magpies to try his hand at managing in China.
He has since returned to Premier League management with Everton, and last week he reiterated that he is committed to the Toffees and will not be rejoining Newcastle any time soon.
What has Waugh said about Newcastle's manager search?
Newcastle have failed to win any of their opening eight league matches under Bruce this term, and he has now been relieved of his duties.
Waugh has claimed that PIF would have gone after Benitez if they had completed their takeover sooner, but has admitted that they are now resigned to pushing for someone with a similar skillset to the 61-year-old, rather than getting the man himself.
He told GIVEMESPORT: “Previously, Rafa Benitez, the former Newcastle manager, would have been their preferred choice. For a long while they hoped that timelines would converge, and that if that takeover had happened earlier this year, then Rafa Benitez would have been available and he would have been ideal to bring back into the club.
“But obviously, he’s subsequently gone to Everton. He doesn’t break contracts, and he’s already ruled himself out essentially. And so they are looking for someone like that, or almost an alternative to Rafa Benitez.”
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Who could replace Bruce at Newcastle?
PIF have reportedly narrowed down the candidates to three names: Eddie Howe, Lucien Favre and Paulo Fonseca.
Fonseca is believed to be someone of "significant interest", so it appears that he may be nudging ahead in the race to take over from Bruce at this stage.
In his most recent job at Roma, Fonseca was known for his attacking style of football, as the Serie A side scored 68 goals last season in the league, but they also conceded 58 times.
Benitez is a master of getting his teams well-organised and tough to break down, and that is not necessarily a strength of Fonseca's. The same could be said of Howe, as his Bournemouth side was always watchable, yet ultimately shipped too many goals to stay in the Premier League.
In terms of finding someone of a similar ilk to Benitez, Favre might be Newcastle's best bet. The Swiss manager is experienced and has coached in Europe's elite competitions, much like Benitez, and is arguably the most likely option to find the right balance between attack and defence at Newcastle.
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