After hoovering up half of all English football writers in the summer, The Athletic have continued their recruitment drive, and have announced that the manager of Dalian Yifang in China as their new columnist. That manager just happens to be former Liverpool and Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez.
In his first column,which begins with a quote from Confucius, Benitez outlines "the real story" of his Newcastle exit, and it's a side of the story the beleaguered club won't be too happy to see in the news.
A number of protests and boycotts took place before Newcastle's first game on Sunday, with fans demanding Mike Ashley sell the club. While the protests didn't have the impact the massive impact the fans will have hoped for, the attendance of the game was significantly down on their average first home game in the Premier League, all the more worrying given Arsenal were the visitors.
How Benitez has confirmed what Newcastle fans have long suspected. His time at the club had become untenable and unworkable, within the constraints of Ashley penny pinching.
Benitez, responding to Newcastle managing director's Lee Charnley claim in Sunday's match programme that he left the club "for money" and that the club now have a manager in Steve Bruce"who genuinely cares", claimed he was offered more money to leave the club in the past and refused.
I tried to do my best every day, even staying when we went down to the Championship and saying no to other offers — bigger offers than the one I recently accepted with Dalian Yifang, by the way. If I was only interested in moving “for money”, as Charnley stated, I could have done it much earlier.
Benitez puts the blame for his leaving Newcastle purely at the feet of Ashley, Charnley and the club.
Newcastle’s board had a year to sort out my contract but, when we met after the end of last season, they didn’t make me an offer I could accept. They told me they didn’t want to invest in the academy or the training ground — if they like, I can explain the reason why Mike Ashley refused to do that. Their idea of a project was a policy of signing players under 24 and, in my opinion, the budget available was not enough to compete for the top 10.
After that meeting, I knew they would not come back with a serious offer and, when it arrived, 19 days later, it was for the same salary as three years earlier and with less control over signings.
Charnley’s comments in the programme about having a deal agreed for Joelinton in February explains a lot that I couldn’t understand at that time.
After three years of unfulfilled promises, I didn’t trust them.
Rafa's comments will add further fuel the fire for Newcastle fans who are already fed up with the way the club is being run.
Benitez goes on to talk about how he's faring in China and the challenges and opportunities it entails. You can read his column in full in The Athletic.