Rafa Benitez has explained why he didn’t make a sensational return to Newcastle United - despite being the new owners’ number one choice.
Through his Liverpool connections, the Spaniard played an integral part in bringing Amanda Staveley to the table back in October 2017 before her first attempt to broker a takeover fell through.
Up until Benitez’s final days as Magpies boss, he had hoped for a takeover that would have seen him extend his two-and-half-years at St James’ Park but instead left with Mike Ashley still as owner.
Benitez was managing Dalian Pro in China when Staveley, backed by her own PCP Partners, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and the RB Sports & Media, agreed a deal with Ashley in April 2020.
The 62-year-old, then Staveley’s leading choice, was set for a return but the takeover ran into complications. It took 18 months for the Premier League to approve the deal. By that time, in October, Benitez had accepted the Everton job.
Why Rafa Benitez didn’t return to Newcastle
“At the end of my time at Newcastle, I was waiting and waiting, but they didn’t sell the club,” Benitez explained to The Athletic.
“OK, fine. I had to leave. Later on, I was waiting again and they didn’t get permission (for the takeover to happen) and then Everton came in and I went there.”
Although Benitez was fresh into his role at Goodison Park, NewcastleWorld understands a brief call went into the Spaniard and his representatives about a potential return.
Benitez, however, was committed to the Toffees, something he insists he doesn’t regret after being sacked a little under three months later.
He said: “I did what I had to do. I did the same when I was at Newcastle and another club approached me but I said, ‘No, I will stay’.
“The directors of Everton were worried about what the press were saying, but I told them, ‘Listen, if I give my word, I will try to do my best until the end’.”
Being ‘really pleased’ for Newcastle
Newcastle turned to Eddie Howe, who has guided the club to Premier League safety, albeit not mathematically, following an incredible run of nine wins from 14 games in 2022, form bettered only by title-chasing Liverpool.
Benitez is “really pleased for Newcastle, to see everybody enjoying it, because we were there for three years without any money and fighting for everything and now you can see them trying to do something different.
“They are doing well and it’s clear that Eddie (Howe) is doing a great job.
“When I talk about Newcastle, it will always be good. My relationship with the fans, the city, with our players, will always be part of me.
“That is forever. All I’m doing is enjoying their success from outside.”