Former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager Rafa Benitez has emerged as the No 1 target for Newcastle, should they decide to sack Steve McClaren due to their ongoing relegation threat.
Newcastle currently sit second-bottom, a point behind rivals Sunderland in 17th place. Last weekend’s 3-1 defeat by Bournemouth at St James’ Park prompted widespread reports that McClaren would be axed, with a board meeting said to have taken place on Monday with the former England manager in attendance.
Both former Manchester United manager David Moyes and ex-Leicester City boss Nigel Pearson were early contenders for the job with the former still on the shortlist, but The Mirror claims that Benitez has been sounded out as the prime candidate to replace McClaren.
The report claims that Benitez, who is open to a Premier League return after his spell with Napoli and unsuccessful time in Madrid, has already been contacted by Newcastle although no serious talks have taken place.
The 55-year-old Spaniard, who was unceremoniously sacked by Real on 4 January this year after barely seven months in the job, is yet to reject Newcastle’s interest, which has led officials on Tyneside to optimistically believe they can lure him to St James’ Park.
It’s believed that McClaren’s stay of execution is merely so Newcastle can line up his replacement, although the 54-year-old did take training on Tuesday and could be in charge for next Monday’s trip to Premier League leaders Leicester.
The biggest concern for Newcastle though is their short-term future, given that they do not know which league they will be playing in next season due to the very real threat of relegation to the Championship.
The Magpies follow up the trip to Leicester with the Tyne-Wear derby against rivals Sunderland, a fixture they have not won in the last eight attempts, although they do have a generous run-in after that with a trip to Liverpool and the visit of Tottenham their most testing fixtures left this season.
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