RAFA BENITEZ is holding face to face talks with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley about his future at St James’s Park.
The pair plus managing director Lee Charnley are meeting in a London hotel this morning looking for agreement on the way ahead for the Magpies.
The fact Ashley, who has let Charnley handle negotiations so far, has agreed to sit down with Benitez is a positive sign.
Benitez has made it clear that in an ideal world, he wants to stay at Newcastle.
And Ashley too doesn’t want to lose a world class manager who has led them to promotion and two mid-table finishes in his three years in charge.
But while the two parties want the same outcome, Benitez, 59, has made it clear he will not sign a new contract unless he’s convinced the club matches his own ambition.
As things stand, he is due to leave Newcastle at the end of next month when his current deal expires.
And he’s already warned he will walk away even if there is no new job in the pipeline if he feels “the make do and mend” strategy he has had to work to, continues.
Charnley announced last month that a transfer budget of £50m will be made available this summer and next plus any cash made from departures.
But Benitez wants assurances on wages – Newcastle’s wage structure lags behind most Premier League clubs.
And he also wants the major say on transfer.
A key battleground will be whether or not Newcastle trigger the £16.5m clause in Salomon Rondon’s West Brom contract.
The striker was the Toon’s Player of the Year during a successful loan stint on Tyneside and Benitez wants to sign him on a permanent basis.
But in the past, Ashley has refused to sanction deals for players approaching their 30th birthday and the Venezuelan reaches that landmark in September.