The Newcastle fans in the Transfer Tavern are desperately hoping that Rafa Benitez will stay at the club beyond the end of the season, but they appreciate that if a big club comes calling, the offer might be too tempting to resist for the Spaniard.
Benitez has become something of a hero at St James’ Park since he took over in March of 2017. Since he took charge of The Magpies, Newcastle have been relegated and subsequently promoted at the first time of asking under his leadership. Arguably his biggest challenge to date has arrived this season, where he has been tasked with the job of keeping the club in the top-flight with barely a penny to spend on new players whilst negotiations regarding the ownership at the club continue to loom at large.
Regardless of whether Benitez is successful in keeping Newcastle in the top-flight this season, his future at the club will certainly be a subject for discussion this summer. It is likely that Benitez will want to see a certain level of ambition if he is to remain at the helm, so if Ashley fails to sell the club to an owner offering a generous transfer budget then Newcastle may be forced to look for a new manager.
Hypothetically speaking, Ashley may well sell the club to Staveley who in turn could hand Benitez £100 million to spend on new players, but that still might not be enough to persuade the 57-year-old to resist offers from rival clubs. With that to consider, Newcastle will potentially be forced to hire a new manager next summer, and one man who should be at the top of their shortlist is the former Leicester City boss and Premier League title-winner, namely Claudio Ranieri.
Following one of the most romanticised and unlikely of stories in the history of English football, Ranieri eventually guided Leicester to the Premier League title for the first time in their history. The Italian manager was admired by the British media for his charming conduct and his genuine modesty considering Leicester’s remarkable success. His dismissal from The King Power less than a year after their title victory was widely criticised, but since departing the club he has quietly resurrected his career at FC Nantes.
Ranieri’s side currently sit in 5th place in Ligue 1 with 12 fixtures left to play, and although a late push for Europe looks well out of their reach, his debut season should be considered a success. The 66-year-old has proven at Nantes that he has the character to bounce back from his Leicester dismissal, so he should certainly be Newcastle’s number one target if Benitez eventually departs St James’ Park this summer.