As has been the case for the past two years at Newcastle United, fans continue to wait for news of manager Rafa Benitez’s future.
The Spaniard has one year left on his contract, but almost everyone in black and white would prefer his demands are met and he is locked down for the long haul.
The Champions League-winning manager is an asset to the Magpies, and one that the club really can’t afford to risk losing. Everybody sees that, except perhaps those in the position of power on Tyneside.
Benitez has made no secret of the fact he loves the club, and really believes in the project he set out to achieve when he first joined back in 2016.
He remained with the side through a season of Championship football, and has by his own admission spent the contract negotiations that have happened fighting not for his own interests, but those of the club.
In a wide-ranging interview on the podcast of Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague, Benitez explained: “I’m fighting for the best for my club. So I am not fighting for what’s best for Rafa Benitez.
“Normally I never have a problem with my contract because it’s, more or less, just because I want to improve.
“I want to improve the facilities, I want to approve the Academy, or I want to bring better players and be more competitive like that. The fans appreciate that.”
It’s true, too. Fans love to hear that Benitez is fighting for what the clubs needs, not trying to line his pockets.
They’re not unreasonable demands either. He’s not asking for the levels of investment seen at Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain – just to be competitive, and to improve the Academy to help Newcastle generate their own talent (which could be sold for profit).
Therefore it seems a no brainer to simply meet those demands.
Benitez is a truly world-class manager that could genuinely take the club to remarkable (and highly profitable) places with a little investment.
With the money in the Premier League, and the possible allure of international business opportunities with European qualification, it seems surely common sense to meet the demands. Spend a little now to make a lot later.
That is the opinion of most fans, pundits and those who hold even the remotest interest in football in general.
Yet, that does not seem to be the understanding held by owner Mike Ashley, and ultimately its his closed purse strings that decide whether that investment happens or not.
Benitez did try to soften the rhetoric of conflict between him and the owners in the interview with Balague.
“My relationship with the owners, normally isn’t as bad as people maybe think it is.”
However, it remains to be seen whether that is simply a man trying his last attempts to prevent the owners from having even the slightest shred of reasoning to deny him his requests.
He has seen his demands met with outright refusal for months on end now – with the owner externally claiming he won’t put another penny into the club himself – and eventually that is going to get to much for even Benitez.
Fans know that too. They are under no disillusionment that there will come a day when even the passion they show and Benitez’s desires to do right by the club become not enough and the man walks.
He is hardly going to lack potential suitors for a new job afterwards, and likely with owners willing to back his entirely reasonable demands.
Benitez is hardly asking for the world, and yet there are the delays in contract talks and the outright risk of losing him.
Any other owner in the Premier League – almost any forward-thinking owner in general – would have already locked down Benitez as soon as talks were first brought up and the club would powering ahead with its summer transfer policy.
Signings like Martin Dubravka (who the club frankly has to sign given his impressive performances and ludicrously cheap option to buy clause) are sat in limbo unnecessarily due to a point of contention between owner and manager that should have absolutely no contention at all.
Newcastle finished 10th in the Premier League, with a squad likely unable to achieve that under any other manager, and should be in a period of rejoicing – looking forward to pushing on even further next season.
Instead, as is the way on Tyneside, fans are sat nervously waiting for the moment the owner finally breaks the manager’s willpower and makes him quit.
It will come one day – as much as it shouldn’t – and those who fill St. James’ Park each week just have to hope they get as long out of Benitez’s services as they can befor.