Rafael Benitez will “almost certainly” leave Newcastle at the end of this week and the club will struggle to find a like-for-like replacement, according to reliable journalist Graham Courtney.
Benitez’s contract as Magpies boss runs out at the end of the week, and talks between the Spaniard and owner Mike Ashley have come to a halt.
Speaking on talkSPORT‘s Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast [Monday, 9:35am], Courtney – the radio station’s NE correspondent – said that an announcement will soon be made saying that Benitez has left.
“Benitez will almost certainly leave this weekend,” the journalist said. “Put it this way: If he was going to stay, it would have been announced by now. I just can’t understand why there’s going to be any other logical outcome.
“In terms of replacing Rafa Benitez with a like-for-like, I can’t see how it’s going to happen.
“It will take an almighty shift by one of either Ashley or Benitez. But this could all be resolved between now and next weekend. The simple fact is, we’re sitting here now on Monday morning still talking about it.
“They will just let the whole thing run down and then there will be an announcement to say ‘Right, that has happened, this is what we’re now doing’.”
If Courtney is right, this is as grave news for Newcastle fans. It looks as if it will be a formality now that Benitez will walk away from St James’ Park upon the expiration of his contract, and that only a momentous shift in attitude from either the Spaniard or Ashley will do anything to stop that happening. But it seems that both sides have made their minds up, and it is surely only a matter of time now before Benitez does eventually leave. If he does, Courtney is right when he says that it is going to be very difficult to find a replacement. Ashley will not want to have to fork out compensation to get an under-contract manager to leave their current club. And given the Benitez talks, it’s unlikely that the new manager will be offered a lot of money to spend or given freedom to sign who he wants. Therefore, the club will have to find someone that is currently out of work, with Garry Monk being mooted as someone who could fit the bill. It is set to be an anxious week for Newcastle fans and one they will want to be over as quickly as possible, one way or another.