BREAKING NEWS: Newcastle appoint Rafa Benitez as Steve McClaren successor
Lee Gormley | March 11, 2016
Benitez new man at Toon helm
After recently dismissing Steve McClaren from St James’ Park, Newcastle United have moved swiftly and appointed former Real Madrid boss Rafa Benitez as their new manager, with the Spaniard agreeing a three-year-deal on Tyneside, which includes an opt-out clause if the club are relegated.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) March 11, 2016
The 55-year-old took over at the Bernabeu last summer but, after a string of underwhelming results with the Galacticos, his contract was terminated and the club’s former player and assistant Zinedine Zidane soon took charge.
Now, having begun the current campaign in charge of one of European football’s giants, Benitez returns to the Premier League in an attempt to rescue Newcastle from relegation, as the Toon sit in a dangerous 19th position after McClaren’s stuttering reign.
The Madrid-born coach led Liverpool to a second-place finish in the top-flight in 2009, as well as winning the 2005 Champions League and 2006 FA Cup, before eventually arriving back in England as temporary boss of Chelsea, where he lifted the 2013 Europa League.
Can Benitez rescue Toon?
Former Toon coach McClaren was unable to overturn the Tyneside club’s domestic fortunes this year, despite splashing a huge amount on new arrivals in the January transfer window, with the likes of Andros Townsend and Jonjo Shelvey coming in from Tottenham and Swansea City respectively.
The Magpies are sitting a single point from safety and are 5/4 with Coral to avoid a daunting drop down divisions this season, for what would be the second time since 2009.
Benitez has a tough task ahead of him, after the club’s hapless run of three consecutive Premier League defeats and just a single domestic victory in six outings, and his first game in charge will be against table toppers Leicester City, which they are 5/1 to earn three points from.
Speaking of his appointment, Benitez said: “I have the pleasure to confirm I have committed to a legendary English club, with the massive challenge of remaining part of the Premier League.
“It will be a challenge not just for me and my staff but for the players, the club and the fans.
“All of us must push together in the same direction and with the same target in mind. This is the reason why I’m going to ask for your total support to successfully complete this task.
“Personally, it means my return to the Premier League, closer to my home and my family. I can’t be happier.
“Come on Toon Army! The club and I need your total involvement!”
To avoid a second drop to the Championship in seven seasons, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is putting all his chips on new boss Benitez, in a move which could either turn out to be a masterstroke or a futile Toon tragedy.