Craig Hope draws a lot of water in my book at this point. He has had his finger on the Rafael Benitez pulse as well as anyone since the rumors first surfaced that he could be coming to St. James' Park. When he talks about Rafa, I listen. I still temper whatever he says because Newcastle United, but I temper it less because he's been right at almost every turn about the Spaniard. That counts for something.
Earlier today, he published a new report updating the situation with Rafa and the potential that he might stay on with Newcastle in the Championship. His report states that Rafa is drawing up a list of transfer targets and has been given full transfer control by Mike Ashley after "verbally agreeing" to stay. It's hard with the evidence of years to get too excited about anything with this regime, but the potential long-term ramifications if Mike Ashley truly does everything that is being reported and keeps a big name manager in a relatively small money league are clear and exciting.
The reports are not only coming from Craig Hope. George Caulkin has echoed them at the times, for instance. All of the information out there about Rafa's stay is being firmly couched with the caveat "an eleventh hour bid could scupper the deal" (because Newcastle United) but it feels like there is a genuine affection from Rafa to the Newcastle fans. We know on the evidence of the Rafa Love Fest™ on Sunday that the feeling is mutual. We also have learned (whether the club have or not is another matter) that timing is very important. For all of our sakes, let us hope that the reports are true and this gets tied up as soon as humanly possible so that Rafa and his Authoritah can get to the work of fixing our club.