Rafael Benitez set to take time as Newcastle bid to keep Spaniard

Rafael Benitez set to take time as Newcastle bid to keep Spaniard

Talks between Rafael Benitez and Newcastle could extend to weeks rather than days as the club attempts to persuade him to remain on Tyneside.

The Spaniard met managing director Lee Charnley on Thursday in the immediate aftermath of relegation from the Barclays Premier League with sources later indicating their initial discussions had been "productive".

It is understood that meeting was just the first of several scheduled over the next few days either side of Sunday's final fixture against Tottenham at St James' Park and that a speedy resolution is unlikely.

Newcastle certainly want the 56-year-old, who accepted a 10-game challenge to keep the club in the top flight back in March, to stay, although the three-year contract he signed includes a release clause which could now be activated by either party.

But while the hierarchy has been impressed with the Spaniard's approach to his task, there is much detail to discuss from the club's point of view as well as from that of Benitez, before any decision can be made.

Newcastle's revenue will be drastically reduced by their fall from grace and the squad will have to be re-shaped accordingly, and Benitez's blueprint for an immediate return to the Premier League and how it fits with whatever financial model owner Michael Ashley's regime is to employ, will be key.

However, perhaps the most important factor in the entire dialogue will be the former Liverpool boss' readiness or otherwise to take on the unaccustomed challenge of working in the Sky Bet Championship.

The Magpies staged something of a coup to land Benitez in the first place with his desire to return to the Premier League working in their favour.

But he will not be short of options this summer and he has already been linked with the current vacancies at Valencia and Everton, although sources on Merseyside have indicated that he is not among the early front-runners for the job vacated by compatriot Roberto Martinez on Thursday.

The ball remains largely in Benitez's court, and while time is a factor with the club needing to prepare for a very different task to the one they hoped to be taking on, they will not press him unduly for an answer.

In addition, there is a significant unknown in terms of how owner Mike Ashley will respond to relegation.

He handed responsibility for the day-to-day running of the club to his football board of Charnley, chief scout Graham Carr, club ambassador Bob Moncur and then head coach Steve McClaren last summer with Benitez having since replaced McClaren, and he cannot have been impressed by what has happened since.

The £80million he provided to strengthen the squad has not been spent effectively and he will want answers, although despite calls from the city newspaper the Chronicle for Charnley to appoint Benitez and then go, the early indications are that he will remain in post.

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