Rafa Benitez responds to controversial Newcastle United takeover question

Rafa Benitez was about Newcastle United’s Saudi Arabian ownership.

Rafa Benitez has responded to the ongoing criticism surrounding the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia’s ownership of Newcastle United.

It’s almost 12 months to the day since the PIF-led consortium, including PCP Partners and RB Sports & Media, completed their £305million takeover of the club.

During that time, the Magpies have faced accusations of sportswashing by the likes of Amnesty International amid Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

“It’s a difficult one for everyone concerned,” said Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe said earlier this year. “I understand the questions have to be asked, I’ve got no problem with that.

“From my perspective – and I’ve always maintained this – my specialist subject is football. It’s what I know, it’s what I’ve trained to do.

“As soon as I deviate from that into an area where I don’t feel qualified to have a huge opinion, I think I go into dangerous ground, so I prefer to stick to what I believe I know.

“I’m hugely proud to represent this football club and the supporters and the city and I’m trying to create a team the city can be proud of, and all my energy is going into that and will continue to.”

Howe was perhaps speaking for the entire Newcastle fanbase, who have enjoyed their team’s success under the 44-year-old with their points total in 2022 bettered only by Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.

After years of battling Premier League relegation, the Magpies now have lofty ambitions of becoming champions of England, something Benitez believes could not be made possible without the takeover.

Former Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

In an interview with German publication Kicker, Benitez, who managed United between 2016 and 2019, was asked the following question.

Q: You mentioned Newcastle as a good station. How sad are you personally that a club with this tradition and passion has now committed itself to owners from an unjust state like Saudi Arabia and the Premier League allowed this to happen?

The Spaniard responded: “When I was there, everyone stood together, happy about promotion and staying up in the Premier League. But if you want to get ahead, you have to invest.

“Basically, we have to accept that some people have to and have to make decisions. But everyone can do good and help in their environment, we can influence that, others not.

“My family and I take care of many social projects.”

Benitez was set to return to St James’ Park as manager before the takeover stalled during the Premier League owners’ and directors’ test.

Once the EPL received “legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle” and the takeover was approved, the 62-year-old was in charge at Everton.

Benitez was sacked by the Toffees in January and has been recently linked with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Leicester City and Nottingham Forest.