Arsenal legend and current pundit Ian Wright believes that Newcastle United must prioritise tying down manager Rafa Benitez to a long-term deal before they spend money anywhere else.
The Spaniard, who has previously managed Liverpool and Chelsea in the Premier League, has been operating on a shoestring transfer budget over the past couple of seasons, but, despite that, has managed to re-establish the Magpies as a solid top flight outfit.
After some early-season struggles, Newcastle have accumulated 13 points from their last seven games and now find themselves in 14th place, four points clear of the drop-zone.
"Looking with my critical eye towards the owner," Wright began.
"I’m not bashing or anything but for him to come out at this point and mention about the ‘sale’, I was thinking to myself, ‘has he said that simply because he doesn’t want to buy anyone in January?’ to bolster this up, because he might be selling the place.
“It just to me felt really awkward at a time when Newcastle are really starting to get going because this manager is brilliant. We mention Pellegrini, he’s brilliant – Rafa, brilliant.
“He’s working with peanuts, and still getting a good tune out of Newcastle; so I hope for the sake of Newcastle fans it’s not a false dawn and he’s not doing it so he doesn’t have to spend money.”
“Something has to happen, where, if it’s Mike Ashley or the new owners, or whoever it’s going to be, the first signing they have to make is Rafa.”
Benitez and Newcastle achieved a 100% win record last month, with the 58-year-old subsequently being awarded the Premier League Manager of the Month award for November. And despite dropping points against Everton and West Ham since then, Benitez has swiftly got his side on track once more after beating Huddersfield 1-0 at the John Smith's Stadium on Saturday.