It’s an intriguing situation, isn’t it? The relationship between directors of football and managers are very complex and few are more so than managing director Lee Charnley and Spaniard Rafa Benitez.
The pair will first have met ahead of Benitez’s appointment in March 2016 and as a result of their respective roles, they will surely keep in regular contact.
Benitez’s role is clear so, obviously, his sole focus will be on training and then the fixtures that Newcastle United play in. Charnley, on the other hand, is the director behind the scenes that has to maintain the relations between pivotal figures in the club so the onus is seemingly very much on Charnley to keep the hierarchy of the club ticking over.
The power structure between the aforementioned pair is well illustrated by Benitez’s strong-mindedness and stern answers in press conferences that show he is not one to be walked all over, given his importance in the club.
Just last August when Benitez was asked about Charnley’s suggestion to invite Mike Ashley to watch training at Darsley Park, as revealed by Sportsmail in the piece, Benitez told the media that “Mike Ashley is the owner and he is welcome here whenever he wants”. That just shows a formal invite was not on the cards as, despite Charnley’s efforts to relieve tensions, Benitez rightfully feels the owner should not have to be invited to something that is his.
Benitez’s contract expires in the summer and he is in complete control of the situation which further displays the power he can have at times in the ongoings behind-the-scenes at Newcastle. Following the successful January transfer window, he told the media that “I will not say, “Oh, we have signed two players so I will sign a contract now” and suggested that then, it was not the time to talk about his future.
It is clear that Benitez is not one to comply to everything suggested by the hierarchy of the club and rightfully so. Only just about enough has been done in his time for him to stay for over three years now and to keep him long beyond that, Charnley and Ashley will have to put some assurances in place to ensure he remains in the North East for the long-run.