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Why West Ham’s Interest is a Good Thing

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West Ham’s interest might just force Mike Ashley’s hand.

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By now, you are all familiar with the fact that West Ham is in pursuit of a top-class manager. Sky Sports broke this news yesterday and claimed that West Ham is looking at Rafa Benitez as an option to take West Ham forward.

Earlier our site manager, Bryan Nelson, pointed out in another article that the some of the rumors flying around about West Ham’s pursuit of Rafa Benitez are absolute rubbish, and I totally agree with that. I think we can all agree that the outrageous claims from news sources such as the Express are simply not plausible, but that West Ham does have an interest in Rafa Benitez.

Now that this has been established, let us get back to the topic of relevance: Rafa Benitez’s contract situation.

While I am genuinely concerned that Rafa Benitez could walk away from Newcastle (through no fault of his own), interest from rival teams such West Ham could prove to be a catalyst to the whole situation. Their interest does provide Rafa Benitez some additional leverage in negotiations.

Through past dealings and potential takeover talks, we have seen exactly how Mike Ashley operates. He likes to slow negotiations down to a minimal pace in an effort to maintain control. However, he has definitely lost some of leverage with other rival teams monitoring Rafa’s situation with keen interest.

From Rafa’s perspective, this West Ham interest is quite ideal. It is common knowledge that Rafa Benitez is highly coveted by other clubs, and now there is substantial interest from a rival club to back this up. If Mike Ashley does ultimately fail to back Rafa, the Spaniard has a favorable offer to fall back on.

Sure West Ham does have some issues, with fans storming the pitch and all, but their board has shown their intentions of hiring a top-class manager, and no reasonable person is dumb enough to sign a top class manager and then not back him (*cough cough*).

West Ham United v Burnley - Premier League Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

The fact that this situation has even transpired just goes to show how unappreciative Mike Ashley is of Benitez. Even after Benitez steered the team back to the Premier League and ensured their subsequent safety, Mike Ashley remains resistant to Rafa’s demands. Let us not forget that Mike Ashley is the man who has benefited most from Rafa Benitez’s work. Thanks to the Spanish manager, Mike Ashley has been able to raise the valuation of his investment even further. It’s also worth noting that Ashley made Benitez’s job much as hard as possible by failing to provide backing.

As a fan, I feel for Rafa Benitez and the situation that Mike Ashley has created for him. Benitez has shown in the past two years that he can take Newcastle forward, yet Mike Ashley has not matched his enthusiasm. By always showing appreciation to fans and stating that Newcastle is the only club he is talking to, the Spaniard has proven his loyalty to the club.

Anyways, it is not like Rafa Benitez is asking for a whole lot. Adequate investment to revamp a comparatively weak squad and some honesty are not outrageous requests. Mike Ashley has given transfer funds to far less qualified managers in the past (Pardew and McClaren).

So when Ashley plays hardball with the man who has saved his massive investment, part of me wants Rafa to get what he deserves— an owner that will match his intentions.

While I would be absolutely gutted if Rafa does HAVE TO walk away, I would harbor no ill intentions toward him. Every person has a limit to the amount of disrespect they can tolerate, and Mike Ashley is really trying to test Rafa’s.

Ultimately, I think that Mike Ashley will meet the bare minimum of Rafa Benitez’s demands now that he sees West Ham and other clubs as real threats. If there is one thing that you can count on Mike Ashley for, it is to protect his business. Failing to extend Benitez’s tenure at Newcastle would undoubtedly cost Ashley more than the reasonable transfer budget and honesty that Rafa Benitez is asking for.

Newcastle United v Barnsley - Sky Bet Championship
“Hey Lee, did you release the ‘over the line’ statement yet?”
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

However, this all requires the assumption that Mike Ashley is a reasonable man, and no reasonable man would let the situation get this bad in the first place. We could very well see Rafa Benitez walk and Ashley’s board release their classic “we tried our best, but couldn’t get ____________ over the line” statement.