Rafael Benitez was yesterday given a three-year, £10m contract at Newcastle United – twice the money his predecessor, Steve McClaren, was on. However, the new manager has insisted on a break clause, allowing him to leave should the club be relegated from the Premier League this season.
On a dramatic day at St James’ Park, McClaren’s misery was ended just before midday when he was sacked after eight months in charge. By then Benitez was being driven to the North-east and arrived at St James’ Park to sign the contract his advisers had spent the majority of the week sorting out. Benitez’s first act was to cancel the players’ day off and he then took a training session.
Significantly, the Spaniard was given the status of manager that was denied to his predecessor and it is believed his salary of over £3m a year is more than double what McClaren had been paid since he took over last summer. Benitez has included a break clause in his contract that could mean that he leaves Newcastle after just 10 games if the club is relegated to the Championship.
He made an immediate impact on the club’s playing staff. Within an hour of finalising the three-year contract, the 55-year-old had cancelled a planned day off and took a late-afternoon session at the club’s training ground that was streamed on the official Newcastle website.
By then Benitez had officially said his first words as manager. “I have the pleasure to confirm I have committed to a legendary English club, with the massive challenge of remaining part of the Premier League,” he said in a statement. “It will be a challenge not just for me and my staff but for the players, the club and the fans.
“All of us must push together in the same direction and with the same target in mind. This is the reason why I’m going to ask for your total support to successfully complete this task. Personally, it means my return to the Premier League, closer to my home and my family. I can’t be happier. C’mon, Toon Army! The club and I need your total involvement!”
Newcastle became the 12th club Benitez has managed in a career that started in 1993 with Real Madrid’s second team. He was sacked at the start of this year by Real, with the Spanish team in third place in La Liga.
A sign of the control he has been given in Newcastle’s quest to stay in the division – they sit second bottom – was shown in the back-room staff he appointed. Fabio Pecchia, Francisco de Miguel Moreno and Antonio Gomez Perez were named, and they will join Ian Cathro and Simon Smith, the only survivors from McClaren’s regime.
McClaren had been forced to take training for three days despite the former England manager knowing he was due to be dismissed. For that unimpressive situation came an apology from Lee Charnley, the managing director, who appointed him and then fired him in the space of less than a year.
“We acknowledge that reaching this decision has taken a number of days and that this has caused uncertainty for everyone involved, in particular for Steve and the players, for which we apologise,” he said. “However, we felt this time was necessary to ensure the right decisions were reached with the best interests of the club at heart.”
Benitez will take charge of Newcastle’s match at Leicester City on Monday.
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