Newcastle have begun drawing up a shortlist as they look for a replacement for manager Rafael Benitez after finally having to turn to Plan B. Reports suggest owner Mike Ashley and managing director Lee Charnley are assessing the field, having expressly declined to consider alternatives while they tried to thrash out a way forward with the 59-year-old.
A series of names have already been linked with the vacancy although sources close to Jose Mourinho have distanced the former Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Manchester United boss from a post once occupied to such popular acclaim by his mentor, Sir Bobby Robson.
The Magpies announced on Monday the news that no fan wanted to hear, that Benitez and his coaching staff would be leaving St James’ Park on Sunday when his existing contract expires after a little more than three years on Tyneside. It is understood the parting of the ways came as a surprise to the Spaniard, who had been primed for a further round of talks after weeks of largely fruitless discussions over an extension offer tabled in May.
However, the word on Tyneside is that the club was also ready for one final throw of the dice until sportswear magnate Ashley’s patience finally snapped with the Benitez camp. Club sources have played down early speculation surrounding the likes of Avram Grant, Garry Monk and ex-New Zealand coach Anthony Hudson, while former Sunderland bosses David Moyes, Steve Bruce and Roy Keane are not thought to figure prominently in the reckoning.
Former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Leicester’s title-winning manager Claudio Ranieri have been mentioned in dispatches, but the likes of former Paris Saint-Germain chief Laurent Blanc, AC Milan’s old boss Gennaro Gattuso, Nice’s Patrick Vieira and Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, who left Feyenoord at the end of the season, are more likely targets.