From Real Madrid to the Championship in the space of 12 months – it could be quite a fall from grace if Rafael Benitez gambles on the Newcastle United job.
According to Sky Sports, the former Liverpool and Chelsea manager is mulling over an offer to replace Steve McClaren on a three-year contract at St James’ Park.
McClaren’s neck appears to be on the line, with the Magpies staring relegation in the face despite £83m worth of new signings – fee reported by BBC Sport.
Newcastle need Benitez a lot more than Benitez needs Newcastle. The Spaniard could arguably walk in to plenty of jobs across the continent, or even further afield.
The 55-year-old won the Champions League, FA Cup and Super Cup with the Reds, and oversaw a Europa League triumph in his interim reign at Stamford Bridge.
And across spells at Valencia, Inter Milan and Napoli, he added two La Liga titles, the FIFA Club World Cup and a Coppa Italia to his enviable trophy cabinet.
So why would one of the most decorated managers of the past 20 years risk taking charge of a sinking ship, which could soon dock at England’s second tier?
Simple; the lure of the Premier League. According to the Daily Mail, Benitez admitted to BT Sport last month that it was his “priority” to manage there again.
Benitez caught the bug at Liverpool – his family still live locally on the Wirral – and he returned to England with Chelsea in 2012, two years after leaving Anfield.
His third Premier League coming might not be at the type of glamour club which his CV merits, although some of England’s elite may have openings in the summer.
It is improbable that he will be on Manchester United or Arsenal’s radar if they make changes at the end of the season, and a return to Chelsea also seems very unlikely.
There is little reason why he shouldn’t be, aside from an association with United and Arsenal’s local rivals, but Benitez wouldn’t be top of their shortlists.
Outside of that – the majority of the Premier League’s most attractive jobs are locked down by Mauricio Pochettino, Slaven Bilic, Ronald Koeman and Mark Hughes.
The only other realistic vacancy, other than Newcastle, which could arise at such a level that it would gauge Benitez’s interest may be across Merseyside at Everton.
And Benitez’s strong links to Liverpool, where he is still remembered with great fondness by the fans, would almost certainly rule out a move to Goodison Park.
That leaves Newcastle, who would reportedly be willing to move mountains to get him as they fear the prospect of going down while fierce rivals Sunderland stay up.
Sky Sports claims that Benitez would be named as manager, not as head coach, giving him the final say on transfers, and would be allowed to bring in his own backroom staff.
Newcastle are in a mess, and yet they are Benitez’s best route back to the promise land. That is, if the Spaniard can keep them in the Premier League over the next 10 games.
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