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NEWCASTLE United boss Rafael Benitez says he is still waiting to hear the club’s ambitions for the future before signing a new contract at St James’ Park, but reiterated the time for talking is running out.
The Spaniard, who marked his three-year anniversary on Tyneside last month, sees his current deal expire on June 30, and with the Newcastle supporters desperate for him to stay, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Benitez.
But after Ayoze Perez’s first hat-trick for the club inspired a 3-1 win over Southampton, moving them 10 points clear of the relegation zone once again, a bullish Benitez demanded clarity from owner Mike Ashley, who is keen to retain the services of his Champions League-winning manager.
While he made it clear that spending is crucial in order to compete, he says he has experience working on a smaller budget.
“In my experience, I have won trophies against teams with more money,” he said.
“I know what I have to do with money or without money, but I want to know our ambition. If we cannot compete, we have to say that, but what we do is more important. We can talk and talk, but the main thing is what we do.”
It was reported last week, after Newcastle managing director Lee Charnley released a positive set of accounts for the year, that Benitez will be given a basic transfer budget of up to £60 million.
If the club’s ambition matches his own, the manager warned that they must be prepared to pay big money in both transfer fees and wages.
“It is important to add quality and to know how much that will cost — will it be £120,000 per week [in wages] or £150,000?,” he said.
“We have to be realistic but we need to compete with teams from seventh to tenth, not thinking: ‘Can we finish seventh or 17th?’ I think. It is a big difference.
“In those positions, teams are spending £100m and we have to compete with them. Otherwise how can you attract players?”
Making Salomon Rondon’s loan deal from West Brom permanent has been a sticking point in negotiations.
The Venezuelan, who turns 30 later this year, is over the ideal age of a player the board want to target, which is said to be 24, and could cost over £20m if the Baggies are promoted back to the Premier League next season.
Benitez, though, insists balance is key, and wants further discussions soon, having heard nothing back after submitting his demands three weeks ago.
“Until June 30, I am the manager and I decide which players we sign, and there aren’t any issues with any players,” he said.
“We can sit down to discuss this any time, but if you want to sign the best players you have to go early, even the young players.
“Last year, [Martin] Dubravka won us his first game against Manchester United, he is older than 24, and so is Rondon. These players can give the other players more time to grow and improve.”
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