With only seven days to go until Rafa Benitez’s contract at Newcastle officially expires, the signs are ominous that he will leave the club.

As much as fans may not like to think about it, but attention must start to turn to his potential replacements, and it will take a very big name to being able to appease angry fans.

(Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United)

Whoever it is that would come in, would have a very difficult job from the outset, and his first priority would have to be trying to issue some sort of rallying call to unite club and supporters.

But it is hard to think of many managers that would be able to do so, and I do not envy them.

We have come up with a list of possible names that may have what it takes to win the fans over.

Patrick Vieira

The former Arsenal midfielder was previously linked with the Newcastle manager’s job in 2015 before the club eventually appointed Steve McClaren to the role.

(Photo credit YANN COATSALIOU/AFP/Getty Images)

Having built up a reputation in the MLS with New York City, before returning to France to take charge at Nice last summer, he would be someone who, assuming he manages as he played, would command respect from both players and fans.

Probably not a leading contender, but definitely one to keep an eye on.

Arsene Wenger

Wenger left his Arsenal role last summer, having taken Arsenal as far as he could.

(Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

He would be another potential candidate that could have the presence to take the club forward if Benitez was to leave.

He has not been employed since leaving the Gunners, and has recently spoken about a possible return to football as either a manager or at board level.

He was reportedly offered to Newcastle in May, and whether he would become a serious candidate remains to be seen, but he would certainly be one of the few people who may get the fan-base behind him.

Jose Mourinho

A name that just will not go away when possible Benitez successors are mentioned. Virtually since the mention of a takeover at the club, his name has been bandied about.

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He has hinted recently that his next role will not necessarily be at a club that is already winning trophies, and reportedly expressed an interest to take charge at a sleeping giant type of club, and help them fulfill their potential.

He has an affection for St James’ Park and the fans, and he has an ego that will not be intimidated by taking over from a hero like Benitez.

Steven Gerrard

The Liverpool idol would be something of a wildcard appointment, having only recently entered management at a senior level with Rangers.

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He has done an excellent job at the Ibrox club, leading them to the runners-up spot in the SPFL behind Celtic, and has reportedly turned down the chance to take over at Derby, should Frank Lampard go to Chelsea.

He would be another name that would be respected by the players, and would have the side playing good, proper football.

Fans would be worried that he may not have what it takes to succeed at a massive club like Newcastle, with him being relatively untested.

It would be a gamble – as was Kevin Keegan when he took charge at St James’ Park the first time – and whether they could wrestle him away from Glasgow would be open to question, with him having a fantastic respect and relationship with Benitez.

Gennaro Gattuso

The former AC Milan player was linked with the Newcastle role a few weeks ago, although those reports were subsequently played down.

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The former midfielder is a commanding presence, and would not worry about taking over from Benitez.

Being outside England, he may not be aware of the feelings of fans as much as an English based manager would be, which could be a good thing.

He left Milan in May, having failed to qualify for the Champions League, finishing fifth in Serie A.

He would be an intriguing character to take over, and one that is surely one to consider.

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