Former Newcastle goalkeeper Shaka Hislop has heaped praise on departing Magpies boss Rafael Benitez, saying it would have been easy for the Spaniard to have walked away sooner.
Newcastle announced on Monday afternoon that Benitez is to leave the club when his contract expires on Sunday, after himself and owner Mike Ashley failed to reach an agreement over an extension.
Previous reports [The Times] have suggested that Benitez was not happy about the lack of assurances and promise of investment he was given, and – speaking to talkSPORT‘s Extra Time programme [Tuesday, 5:50am] – Hislop admitted that Benitez could have left sooner.
“Where does the club go?” the 50-year-old said. “You had a manager in Rafa Benitez who’s one of the best in European football. When it’s all said and done, I don’t think anybody can ever take away exactly how good a manager Rafa Benitez was.
“And [Mike Ashley] had somehow managed to continually undermine him and to devalue his work for the club to the point where he’s allowed him to walk away.
“In all honesty, credit to Rafa Benitez for not walking away himself sooner. You didn’t want to see it come to this, as a man and as a manager he’s unbelievable.”
Hislop is exactly right with these comments. When you look at the financial adversity Benitez has had to face over the years, it really is a wonder that he didn’t jump ship before the current situation arose, even dropping down into the Championship. Throughout his three-year spell at St James’ Park, the Spaniard has worked on a shoestring budget, not being allowed to invest much at all. Yes, the club broke their transfer record by signing Miguel Almiron in January for around £20million [Source: BBC], but compared to other Premier League clubs on their level, Benitez has not been given much to work with. And yet in the past two seasons, he has secured 13th and 10th-placed finishes – both comfortable positions – and has improved the club’s points tally. So Benitez has done an absolutely stellar job but never really been rewarded for it in the transfer market, and it makes you wonder why the manager – despite maybe having thoughts about leaving – never actually went through with it. It must have been so tough to work with that, but maybe it is a sign of his true character and good will – another reason why he deserved to stay on at Newcastle.