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Wednesday 19 December 2018

Rafa could have been Spain boss at the World Cup

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez

Newcastle United were sounded out about the possibility of loaning manager Rafael Benitez to Spain for the World Cup finals.

The Spanish Football Association contacted the Magpies after sacking manager Julen Lopetegui just two days before his side were due to launch their campaign in Russia.

Spain were dumped out of the competition in the last 16 by hosts Russia and have since appointed Luis Enrique on a two-year contract.

Asked at the club's pre-season training camp at Carton House in Kildare if he could have taken charge of his country at the World Cup, he said: "There was maybe a chance, but still I am here and I am happy to be here. There was a chance. There were rumours about that."

Benitez currently finds himself in limbo as he waits for a significant breakthrough on the transfer front. He is desperate to add a proven striker to the mix, but has already missed out on Nice marksman Alassane Plea to Borussia Monchengladbach, while West Brom's Salomon Rondon has so far stayed beyond his grasp.

The situation appears to have reached something of an impasse, with club owner Mike Ashley unwilling to invest heavily in a manager who has just a year remaining on his contract and is yet to agree an extension, while Benitez does not want to commit himself until the club show they share his ambition.

Fans who are never very far from open revolt over Ashley's methods are starting to fear a season of struggle if the squad is not improved, and in turn that could ultimately cost them a manager who has captured their imagination during his time to date on Tyneside.

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