Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez has rejected claims that Matt Ritchie has been told he can leave the club this summer, suggesting that he cannot confirm the future of any of his players until his own contract situation is sorted.
Benitez's tenure as Newcastle boss is due to end on 30th June and, despite having an offer on the table from the club, is yet to put pen to paper on a new deal. Despite the possibility that the 59-year-old may leave the club, The Sun reported that he has told Scottish international Ritchie that he can move on in the summer.
It has been claimed that the 29-year-old was looking for improved wages and an extension on his contract, which is due to expire in 2021, but that the request was turned down by Benitez because of his age.
The Spanish coach insisted this week that this was not that case, insisting: "I am not happy when I see all the stories about Ritchie, it is not true."
The Newcastle manager went on to say that, until his future is confirmed, he is not willing to speak to any members of his squad about their situation.
He added: "I have had some players talking with me (about their future), but I told them you have to talk with the club not me. I cannot give any advice about the future, my contract is up on the 30th of June. If I do not have a contract after next month, how can I say to him, ‘I will not give you a contract?’"
Focus at the club has now switched towards planning for next season following their 1-0 victory over Leicester City last Friday, which has all but confirmed their place in the Premier League next season.
Owner Mike Ashley, who is still looking to sell the club, will be desperate to get Benitez to sign a new contract as soon as possible, with the future of the players at the club very much dependant on the manager.
It appears clear now that, until that deal has been done, all other first team matters at the club will be put on hold, possibly putting their pre-season preparations in jeopardy and placing them on the back-foot ahead of the 2019/20 campaign.