How Rafa Benitez is still manager at Newcastle United is anyone’s guess. He has had major run ins with owner Mike Ashley and has not been given the budget to match his transfer requests after steering the team to Premier League football.
Benitez has been a real servant to the club and let’s not make any mistake about it Newcastle are a big club with a fine stadium and a fantastic set of supporters. But did Benitez make a huge error joining the club and has he overstayed his welcome?
It all must have hit home for him on Boxing Day when his troubled side travelled to Anfield to play Liverpool. Just over 10 years ago he was the boss man at Liverpool where he oversaw 2 Champions League finals with The Reds winning in 2005 in that infamous final with AC Milan where they came back from 3-0 down to win the trophy. Utterly memorable times. Fast forward to 2018 and Benitez saw his side lose 4-0 to Jurgen Klopp’s team one that is still unbeaten for the season, it was easy to feel sorry for how far Benitez has fallen managing a team that are in the bottom six of the league and could be relegated.
And relegated is word that Benitez has used on more than one occasion this season. Benitez has been manager of Newcastle for 2 years following his sacking at Real Madrid that lasted for 7 months after him and his coaching team made fatal errors. One of them at Madrid was fielding an ineligible player in a Copa del Rey match that meant the club were thrown out of that seasons competition. It was a schoolboy error at the biggest club in the world and could not be tolerated.
Somewhat one could argue that Benitez shied away from La Liga and the big leagues to take a job with Newcastle who were at that stage in the Championship, that decision in and of itself seemed like a shock one. But his decision seemed justified as The Magpies under his guidance were promoted to the Premier League.
But it has been a hard slog back in the league this season and Benitez has won just 42.7% of his games with the club. This is his lowest win rate since coaching in the second division of the Spanish league 21 years ago.
At 58 Benitez has time on his hands and he has at least another 10 years maybe more in the game as a coach. But one has to wonder if he has damaged his resume somewhat by sticking with Newcastle. Not seen as a lack of respect for this great team but they are not amongst the elite of some of the clubs that Benitez has coached in his career. Some believe this will be his final season with Newcastle, he has the support of the fans and after the club was relegated he stayed with them, not many coaches of his experience would have done that.
Benitez remains a very special manager but will some of the bigger clubs believe that to be true and will these past few seasons be thought of as the wilderness years for him?