Drawing lines under the uncertainty that has engulfed Newcastle United and its supporters since Amanda Staveley turned up at St James’ Park in October last year has not been easy, but Rafa Benitez has finally done that.
There will be no takeover, he has admitted, after a conversation that took place with the club’s owner Mike Ashley, two weeks ago.
“When I was talking with Mike Ashley he told me that the takeover wouldn’t go through, since then and I’m talking maybe two or three weeks, we have just tried to do what we have to do in this transfer window and prepare the team for the game,” said Benitez. “That’s it.”
On the Staveley collapse, he said: “Fine. The takeover is not my issue.”
Ashley will not sell to Staveley. There is now no room for negotiation as far as the Newcastle owner is concerned. He has become increasingly annoyed by her tactics, which included turning up at a London curry house when he was out with his wife and then being photographed as she left.
It seems increasingly likely that it will be Ashley who remains in control, despite officially putting the club back on the market in October. To that end Benitez admitted he had spoken to Ashley about buying new players in the January transfer window.
“Yes [I have spoken to Mike Ashley],” he said. “He has told me he will try to do something. He has the names and the club will try to sign the players we gave him. It doesn’t matter [the budget], they have the names and they will try to it, it doesn’t matter about the figure, it’s what we try to do.
“Every day we try to change things. I can’t influence other things.”
Benitez’s admission that there will be no takeover, during the first occasion he has talked since Ashley, through a source, said that the episode with Staveley had been “exhausting, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” felt significant, not least because it overlooked her reply, in print, on Friday morning.
Staveley alleged she has put forward three bids (that are still contested by the club), the second of which was an offer of £150m upfront and the final offer a £250m bid without clauses which, according to those close to Ashley, was quickly dismissed (she is around £100 million short of his asking price).
The Reuben Brothers, a property, private equity and venture capital conglomerate, were among possible financiers at the time but not now.
“It is true that we did have a look at it, but nothing actually happened,” a spokesman said. “We are not investing in Newcastle United either as Reuben Brothers or as any individuals.”
Benitez has had to try and work inside of this situation since October, when Newcastle’s form took a dramatic, downward turn. He called for focus ahead of the club’s trip to Manchester City on Saturday.
“We are professionals and we know more or less what is going on,” added Benitez. “The only thing is we can stay focused on training sessions and team selections. It’s something you cannot change, when I had conversation with Mike Ashley and I talk with Lee Charnley every week, it’s about whether we can do this or that.
“Mike Ashley said clearly they will try to do the best they can to bring the players we are looking for. The conversation was positive, that’s always in life so now we need to see the players here.”
It offered a rare moment of clarity. Typically the waters would be muddied within two hours by quotes from Mehrdad Ghodoussi, Staveley’s husband and PCP’s managing partner.
“We would love to buy Newcastle,” he is quoted as saying in the National newspaper. “The fans are phenomenal, the club could be huge and a big success if run properly. You need a world class manager. If Rafa isn't there at the end of the season we would have to rethink this transaction."
His comments, in light of what Benitez had actually said, felt out of date.
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