Rafa Benitez. A man with the likes of Liverpool, Inter Milan, Chelsea and Real Madrid on his CV.
A figure who has a Champions League winners medal in his possession, along with successes in the FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup, FA Cup, Coppa Italia and many more.
The Spaniard is a fantastic tactician who was also named ‘La Liga Best Coach’ in 2002, a division in which he boasts two title wins with Valencia.
On the basis of these facts, it is head-numbingly baffling to think that the 60-year-old wasn’t backed by Mike Ashley at St James’ Park, while Steve Bruce – a man whose best achievement to date is winning the Championship Play-Off Final in 2002 – has been showered in cash.
The ex-Sunderland manager has been handed a £20 million striker this window in Callum Wilson, which follows the £40 million arrival of Joelinton last summer in a window that also saw £16.5 million man Allan Saint-Maximin become a Magpie.
To compare, Benitez had to threaten to quit before landing Miguel Almiron for £20 million days later. The Paraguay international was one of just two deals worth over £10 million that the Spaniard was allowed to make while in the Premier League. The other was Jacob Murphy for £12 million.
Mike Ashley Settling For Less
Quite simply, this whole ordeal reeks of the retail tycoon setting the bar as low as possible, and seeing how little he can spend to keep the club’s head above water.
Ashley must’ve felt that Benitez’s qualities as a manager would be enough to see the Magpies over the line, whereas he may potentially have a few more doubts about Bruce’s pedigree. Hence the heavier backing.
Nevertheless, how unambitious is that? We had a fantastic chance to kick on under a top-class manager, and perhaps mirror what the likes of Wolves are doing now in reaching the latter stages of the Europa League.
Sadly, our owner seems more than happy to let mediocrity reign supreme at St James’ Park.