By 90Min
March 04, 2019

The likes of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp may have stolen the limelight this season in what has been one of the most thrilling Premier League title races in recent memory, but surely neither's achievements can match the sheer miracle work being conducted up on Tyneside.

In this increasingly lucrative world of big-money signings and record transfer fees, Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez has had to sit on the touchline watching the rest of his fellow managers partake in the fantasy world of the transfer window.

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On Christmas Eve, after seeing his side held to a goalless draw by a struggling Fulham at St. James' Park, Benitez revealed that it would be a footballing miracle if the Magpies could avoid relegation. 

He said (as quoted by Sky Sports): "For me, it is almost clear and if we can be better than three teams, it will be another miracle.

"It was a miracle last year. People were thinking, 'Oh, you finished 10th...', but with a couple fewer wins, we could have been in the bottom five, so it was a miracle. If we do the same this year with teams spending even more money than last year, it will be a miracle."

 

Despite operating on a shoe-string budget - and even that could be classed as a bit of a stretch - Bentez has made his side more than competitive. The Magpies arguably have very few players who other Premier League clubs may be knocking on the door to sign, and yet the Spaniard has coached them diligently and turned them into a hard working and organised outfit, punching above their weight. 

Indeed, since that disappointing draw to the Cottagers, the Magpies have picked up 14 points, including arguably their best win since their return to the top flight when they beat Manchester City 2-1 at home. Such was the shock value of the result, the aftermath seemed to by and large focus on City's deficiencies and how their title hopes had fallen apart.

Nobody seemed to be mentioning how after going a goal down inside a minute, Benitez managed to turn things around and lead his side to an impressive comeback victory against the reigning champions. The Spaniard has spent years displaying his tactical nous at some of European football's most illustrious clubs, and on 29 January, he showed he still had a trick or two up his sleeve.

Such has been Benitez's managerial prowess, even the notoriously parsimonious Mike Ashley dipped his hands into his pocket to give the green light to sign Atlanta United star Miguel Almiron.

With the 25-year-old offering pace, directness and a goal threat from midfield, Benitez has been able to bring out Newcastle's creativity and attacking potential, realising he now has a bona-fide star capable of magic. 

If one of the main frustrations with the Spaniard's methods is that it may come across as overly cautious, the signing of Almiron may just finally be the prized resource that can allow him to play more attacking football.

When you look at the table and you see a side lying in 14th, it would be easy to mistake it as the height of meaningless mediocrity. But with the constraints and restrictions Rafa Benitez has had to work with, leading the Magpies to 14th has been anything but mediocre. 

Winning the Premier League title or escaping relegation on a dramatic final day may be the more Hollywood feats, but it's time credit is given to the man who's ensured the Toon Army have calmly gone about their business of preserving their top flight status.

So whilst he may not end up lifting 'the' trophy come the end of the season like a Guardiola or Klopp, but surely he must be the frontrunner to pick up the Premier League's Manager of the Year award.

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