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Rafael Benitez’ departure: the catalyst for decline or revival on Tyneside?

It was announced earlier this week that Rafael Benitez is set to leave his position as Newcastle United manager at the end of this month after he and his representatives failed to reach a new contract agreement in the North-East.

There had been much debate about whether Benitez would still be in charge for next years campaign amidst rumours of a takeover at St James’ Park whilst José Mourinho became the favourite to become the next Newcastle United manager if the takeover came to fruition. However, as the takeover rumours seem to have gone quiet for now, Newcastle were focused on retaining Benitez’s loyalties but they have been unable to do exactly that. 

A club statement was released which stated that “We would like to thank Rafa and his coaching team for their efforts over the last three years and their significant contribution to what has been collectively achieved.” Fans will be disappointed to see the Spaniard walk away from the club but with uncertainty surrounding the clubs positioning there is justification for his departure.

Benitez and Mike Ashley had also had altercations throughout his three years, mainly regarding transfers and lack of funding for the vision that Rafa and the Magpies desired.

Now Benitez is set to depart it is worth looking at his achievements as Newcastle manager and what his departure means for the club.

Just how good was Rafa?

When Benítez took the reins at St. James’ Park the club was in a downward spiral and relegation was unavoidable despite the ship being steadied. Benitez was expected to leave his post then, as a manager of his calibre could have found work at many clubs in the top tiers of European football. However, the Spaniard decided to rebuild a fragmented team and guided the Magpies back into the Premier League with a Championship title in hand.

The loyalty alone shows the class that Rafa possesses as one of Europe’s elite managers, but to come out on top after a 46 game campaign shows how talented he actually is. He has since guided a poorly financed team to two mid-table finishes, and despite dips in form, maintained the faith of his players, the board and most importantly the club’s supporters.

Newcastle fans have not always been the most supportive of managers in the past and if they were not happy they would let the club know. Benitez was never on the wrong side of the fans though and they will certainly be sad to see the Spaniard depart.

The stats

Rafa leaves the Magpies with a 42.5 win percentage in 146 games which is an impressive record considering the club are not one of the Premier League’s elite. This steady record shows how Benítez was doing a very capable and steady job that appeared to be leading the club in the right direction. Now Newcastle need to restructure, and quickly, before next season’s campaign.

What next for Newcastle?

Newcastle, as mentioned, were steady under Rafa but could struggle without his experienced guidance. There are plenty of managers out there but who will take them forward? A step towards the revolving door of Premier League managers could seriously dent their forward progression, and with a takeover looking unlikely they don’t seem to be able to draw a big name.

Ideally, a young creative manager such as Ralph Hasenhüttl at Southampton would be well-suited, but with a low transfer budget and lack of squad depth, it would be hard to entice a manager of this calibre to St James’ Park. Whoever it is, Newcastle fans could be in for a long season – once again.

What next for Rafa?

He has managed at some of Europe’s elite clubs and if they want him, he will go. Even if he joins another Premier League club his track record guarantees he will do a good job.

However, there is speculation surrounding clubs in China. While the offers may be attractive, it would be a great shame to see such an influential manager to leave Europe and the Premier League, and Newcastle fans will certainly agree on that one.

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Premier League Table

# Team MP W D L P
1 Liverpool 22 21 1 0 64
2 Manchester City 23 15 3 5 48
3 Leicester City 23 14 3 6 45
4 Chelsea 23 12 3 8 39
5 Manchester United 23 9 7 7 34
6 Wolverhampton Wanderers 23 8 10 5 34
7 Sheffield United 23 8 9 6 33
8 Tottenham Hotspur 23 8 7 8 31
9 Crystal Palace 23 7 9 7 30
10 Arsenal 23 6 11 6 29
11 Everton 23 8 5 10 29
12 Newcastle United 23 8 5 10 29
13 Southampton 23 8 4 11 28
14 Burnley 23 8 3 12 27
15 Brighton & Hov… 23 6 7 10 25
16 West Ham United 22 6 5 11 23
17 Watford 23 5 8 10 23
18 Aston Villa 23 6 4 13 22
19 AFC Bournemouth 23 5 5 13 20
20 Norwich City 23 4 5 14 17

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