Date: 28th June 2019 at 6:00pm
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OPINION

Above anything else, above himself and football, above controversy and giant mugs, Mike Ashley seems to prioritise profit.

That’s not an aspersion on his character or anything personal, but merely a reflection of the image that he has cultivated during his disastrous tenure as owner of Newcastle United.

Whether it be failing to break a transfer record that had stood since 2005 until this January, or adorning every feasible square foot of St. James’ Park in Sports Direct advertising, the man gives the distinct impression of somebody who likes money a lot, and who is singularly focused on accumulating it.

It can also be seen in his refusal to budge from £350 million asking price that he has slapped on Newcastle United.

That figure has come down slightly from the £380 million that it was understood he was seeking when he first put the club up on the market back in October 2017, as reported by the Guardian, but even then, it is quite a fee for a side that would require sizeable investment to reach a level by which they could regularly fulfil their potential as a European contender.

Nonetheless, Ashley has ploughed on with his valuation, supplemented by a transfer policy that, big money move for Miguel Almiron aside, has been largely conservative at best.

But the departure of Rafa Benitez could change all of that.

The Spaniard will leave the club on Sunday having failed to agree to a contract extension, and an interesting subtext to the debacle is just how much it could end up costing Ashley.

According to football finance expert Kieran Maguire, the considerable drop in confidence surrounding the club going into the new season, plus the increased risk of relegation it brings, could end up setting the owner back £35 million.

Speaking to the Chronicle, he said: “When you have someone of the calibre of Benitez, you can make a reasonable assertion that he acts as insurance against relegation.

“I think the risk of relegation, in this case, has jumped and I really don’t think it’s unreasonable to say the value has dropped by that 10% figure.”

Ashley may be minted, but £35 million is not to be sniffed at.

By letting Rafa go, he might have cost himself more than he realises.