Jamie Carragher says Rafa Benitez is away at the end of the season


"Mike Ashley can’t afford to sack Benítez. Why would he anyway since he is the best man to keep them up and it would only rile disillusioned fans even further? Rafa will see out contract because it would cost £6 million to buy out its final year. Newcastle are a big, prestigious club, Benítez is on a lucrative salary and he retains the overwhelming support of the St James' Park crowd, but the reality is an institution limping along until an inevitable parting next summer.

"Yet again, the Newcastle fans will suffer when this has played itself out. While they cherish Benítez's coaching talent, those running the club are wasting it. It would be fascinating to hear from Ashley what exactly his plan is for Newcastle. Not just this season, but beyond. Does he have one? Is there anyone sitting in his boardroom working out where the clubs needs and wants to go and how they intend to get there?

"Newcastle is a club that used to dream of fighting with the top clubs for players, now they can’t even compete with promoted teams like Wolves and Fulham for the same targets. At the moment they are losing out to clubs like Burnley who are more willing to meet contract expectations. That is what happened when the clubs were pursuing Jack Cork a year ago.

"Newcastle travel to Selhurst Park as underdogs. Crystal Palace, on paper, is a superior side. There is no-one of Wilfried Zaha’s class in the Newcastle squad, which is why Benítez has opted for a much more defensive approach to keep the team up. Leicester are far better, too. They are the type of club Newcastle fans must watch and think, ‘why can’t we be like them?’ We all talk about the miracle of their Premier League win – and given the standard of opposition in the top six it was – but look deeper and it was achieved with smart investment.

"Newcastle fans justifiably argue they can never achieve such lofty ambitions until Ashley gets out of St James’ Park. For Benítez to satisfy his and enhance a decorated list of honours, he will go first."

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