Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez has revealed that he had the opportunity to take charge of Spain ahead of this summer’s World Cup. The former world champions caused early drama in the tournament when they sacked boss Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the opening game of the campaign after the 51-year-old took charge of Real Madrid without notifying the Spanish FA. Sporting director Fernando Hierro ultimately took charge of the team for the tournament, but Benitez claims there was a “chance” that he could have been the man in the dugout in Russia. Benitez admitted that he remains open to the prospect of managing his native national team in the future, but says for the time being he is happy in the north east.
When considering this proposition, one has to suspect that Benitez is better off where he is at the moment rather than taking the Spanish national job at what must have been relatively short notice. Had the former Liverpool manager taken the post, it could be argued that it would have been a pretty thankless task really. Had Spain underperformed then the blame would likely have fallen at Rafa’s door, whereas a good performance and former boss Lopetegui could feasibly stake his claim for a large portion of the credit – Benitez wouldn’t win either way. OK, he could have potentially had a World Cup medal on his CV, but if the first thought when considering that is “well, it wasn’t really his squad though, was it?” then the meaning becomes tarnished.
The 58-year-old is in charge of his third English team, having previously managed Liverpool and Chelsea. Arguably Newcastle is the biggest challenge of his time in the Premier League, though none of the roles have been what could be called easy! He did win the Champions League with Liverpool, and at Chelsea took temporary charge of a side with annual title aspirations as well. With Newcastle he has a squad whose Premier League status is no longer an assured thing (though with him at the club they certainly look more assured this time around). He doesn’t have as much money at his disposal as he perhaps has in the past, such as while in charge of Real Madrid, and so balancing the books is a constant headache if his squad is to be strengthened.
Newcastle’s spending so far this summer has been on the low side, with Ki Sung-Yueng signing on a free transfer from Swansea and Martin Dubravka arriving on a permanent deal for £4m. Kenedy has re-joined the St. James’ Park side for a second loan spell as well, and so more new faces will need to follow if the Magpies want to avoid running the risk of falling behind in England’s top flight. On top of that, retaining the likes of Jonjo Shelvey and Dwight Gayle will be top priority. With Benitez in charge, however, they are well place to put in a solid showing this season – the fans adore him, and he seems to enjoy life at the club as well. Missing out on the Spain job this summer could well prove to be a blessing in disguise.
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