Rafa Benitez was playing a game during his tenure as Newcastle United manager, according to Gary Neville.
The Spaniard left Tyneside earlier this summer after failing to agree terms on a contract extension, but remains a popular figure amongst supporters, with many seeing him as a casualty of Mike Ashley’s poor management of the club.
But Neville has questioned the extent to which Benitez was the victim.
Speaking on Sky Sports, as quoted by the Chronicle, he said: “I thought he was having you over, Rafa Benitez. I thought he has having you over.
“I thought the second that it would’ve got tough or he got an offer from another club, he would’ve gone.
“I think he played the game in the media all the time.”
Newcastle fans won’t want to hear this. To be honest, there is always a fine line to be tread when discussing Benitez’s tenure. On the one hand, he did have the media and the fans on side, and he did know exactly what to say and exactly when to say it. In that respect, Neville is right. But does that mean that what he was saying was unjustified, or that his claims about the way the club is being run are false? Of course not. It’s easy to sit back now and claim that you always knew Benitez was going to go as soon as another offer came in, but the Spaniard stayed for three years in adverse managerial conditions and did a fantastic job given the circumstances. Nobody can blame him for walking away, and he certainly shouldn’t be reviled for doing so. Neville isn’t entirely wrong, but he definitely isn’t right either.