Rafa Benitez is a complex character. Those who have played for the Spaniard describe him as cold, calculated and methodical.
I’M OFF: Rafa Benitez will leave Newcastle United at the end of June. AFP Photo
This week former Liverpool striker Fernando Torres retired from football and recalled a story about his old boss.
He said after scoring a hat-trick for Liverpool he was given the match ball to keep and asked his teammates and manager to sign it.
Rafa wrote: “Today you lost the ball eight times.”
This was Rafa’s perverse way to motivate a player, and on the whole, his methods have worked.
He is an incredibly successful manager. At Valencia he won La Liga twice and the UEFA Cup before moving to Liverpool where he won the FA Cup, the Community Shield, Champions League and the Super Cup.
He moved to Italy and won a few cups with Inter Milan then came back to England to be caretaker manager of Chelsea and won the Europa League then returned to Italy and won the Coppa Italia with Napoli.
His resume is enough to give him a job at just about any football club in the world which was why it was a surprise for me that in 2016 he took charge at Newcastle United who were at the time fighting relegation.
He lost that particular battle, but the following season led the Magpies back up to the Premier League.
I have friends in the northeast of England who have nothing but praise for Rafa. Newcastle is a city where football is more important than religion and as a result, their supporters are loyal to the core.
There’s a way of thinking in that particular part of the world that no matter what, you should support your club at all costs.
And while that may well be correct, there is a slight problem. The football club is rotten because of one thing, the owner.
Mike Ashley has toyed with the emotions of those in black and white for way too long. Last month there was a strong suggestion he was close to selling the club to a Middle Eastern royal family which was music to the ears of the fans.
Sadly when Ashley says it’s Thursday, you really need to check your diary because the man spews more hot air than you’ll find in the skies above Hà Nội on a hot and sticky summer day.
Benitez this week has quit. Called it a day and walked away, so in my limited mind that means there is no buy-out on the cards and Rafa is jumping headfirst overboard from the sinking ship that is Newcastle United Football Club.
In two weeks’ time not only will the Newcastle players return for pre-season training with no manager, but also no coaching team, as they have all left as well.
It’s a shambles, and while Ashley remains in charge, a shambles it will always be.
If scientists in the next two weeks can come up with a way to make a combined clone of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp it would still not work at Newcastle.
The club is infected. Ashley is a cancer that is ripping the soul out of each and every supporter at St James Park, sorry, I mean the Sports Direct Stadium.
While he is in charge, there is no cure.
But what will become of Rafa? Odds of him taking charge at Chelsea have been slashed dramatically much to the anger of their loyal band of plastic supporters, and there’s always China.
Dalian Yifang - who are backed by a man reportedly worth billions of dollars - are understood to have offered Benitez a mouth-watering contract to take charge.
I really don’t think Rafa is short of a bob or two and his motivation, as far as I can see, has never really been about money.
Rafa likes a challenge, that’s why I guess Newcastle was his last destination. Wherever he ends up he will remain cold, calculated, methodical and, overall, successful.
When all is said and done, there is only one loser in this particular football merry go round, and that is the supporters of Newcastle FC. VNS