Monday 16 December 2019

Toon talks rule boss hunt

Benitez replacement may be short-term
Benitez replacement may be short-term

Newcastle's search for a replacement for manager Rafael Benitez will be dictated by the state of play in Mike Ashley's efforts to sell the club.

The Magpies' owner is seeking clarity on the progress being made by interested parties, principally Dubai-based Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, with which his representatives have been holding talks in recent weeks over a potential takeover.

At best, any conclusion appears to be several weeks, if not months away and that could mean appointing a manager on a short-term basis.

But if Ashley decides there is little prospect of a sale going through, he faces a very different scenario.

Names have been put forward for the vacancy at St James's Park, which was created on Monday when Ashley finally lost patience after protracted negotiations with the Benitez camp and unilaterally ended the talks.

As a result, the 59-year-old Spaniard will leave the club when his contract expires at midnight on Sunday and the search for a replacement will begin in earnest.

Managing director Lee Charnley has been tasked with drawing up a shortlist, although Newcastle cannot make formal approaches while Benitez remains at the helm.

However, the state of play on the takeover front will determine whether he is looking for a short-term appointment to bridge the gap to a new owner, or someone who is prepared to work under the constraints of the Ashley regime on a longer-term basis should the sportswear magnate remain at the helm.

Those restrictions were brought into sharper focus with the Aaron Wan-Bissaka move to Manchester United in a deal worth up to £50million - the entire summer transfer budget for Newcastle.

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