This news should not come as a shock to any Newcastle fan, as fans all agree that the treatment of Rafa has been poor thus far and leaving Newcastle if Ashley is still at the helm would make the most sense for the legendary Spanish manager.
Much of that poor treatment has come in the form of withholding money for transfers from Rafa, forcing Rafa to scrape the bottom of the barrel for signings. While in some cases, like with Dubravka, Schar, and Fernandez Rafa has been successful in scraping the bottom of the barrel, more often than not he has been forced to buy less than ideal talent like Javier Manquillo, Joselu and Jesus Gamez.
This lack of investment in players is something Rafa has been very vocal about since the January transfer window of Newcastle’s most recent spell in the Championship, as Rafa truly believes Newcastle can return to glory with investment in the club.
Mike Ashley has used his own lack of investment as a bargaining chip to get a new deal with Rafa done, with multiple reports over the past year claiming that Mike Ashley was promising to release funds for transfers to Rafa once he signs a new deal. It has been made clear that Benitez did not consider these offers because he wanted written in guarantees that this investment in players would happen instead of another Mike Ashley empty promise. Additionally, Benitez requested guarantees that investment would be made in the youth academy and training ground.
Getting a deal done with Rafa is in the best interest of Ashley, as it has been made very clear that part of the value associated with Newcastle is the fact that Benitez is the manager. Locking up Benitez for even another year increases Mike Ashley’s odds of selling the club. Mike Ashley knows this, which slightly decreases the power he truly has over the future of Benitez. It is obvious that Benitez will have no issue obtaining another managerial role, possibly in the premier league, as he still is one of the most respected and successful managers in football.
Rafa, knowing his worth and possibly giving up on trying to negotiate investment guarantees, has given Ashley a clear ultimatum. Benitez will let his contract expire and leave the club this summer if he doesn't receive the two signings he asked for at the start of this transfer window. It is unclear whether this means “permanent” signings or loans, but at Newcastle’s current pace it is hard to see them making any signings.
Benitez is understandably even more frustrated with the lack of investment in the club after the most recent window, which saw Newcastle sell Alexander Mitrovic for a hefty fee and Rafa not able to spend any of the profit made from the sale. Additionally it is appears as if Rafa is frustrated that Newcastle have been slow to close in on the list of targets he gave them at the beginning of December almost 2 months ago.
Newcastle have an offer for Miguel Almiron on the table for reportedly £16m, with the hope that Atlanta United lower their asking price of roughly £25m. This is looking more and more unlikely as there has been increased speculation that Atlanta may wait to sell the midfielder in the summer. Newcastle have been linked to various targets throughout the month, but it is not clear as to whether an actual bid has been made for any of these players.
Newcastle are due another Premier League TV money payment of £55m before the January window closes, but it is unknown whether or not these funds will be made available for Rafa to spend.