Well, they say it's the hope that kills you.
On Monday, the very worst was confirmed with the news that Rafa Benitez won't continue as Newcastle manager beyond his contract expiry at the end of the month.
The last few weeks have been a rollercoaster of emotions with the simultaneous will-they-won't-they sagas of both Benitez and Newcastle and Newcastle and Sheikh Khaled taking a multitude of twists and turns.
Credit to Rafa’s capacity for romance to risk his considerable reputation on that flapping perianal fistula of a club. A wonderful manager.— Pete Donaldson (@petedonaldson) June 24, 2019
With Rafa officially out of the picture now and the takeover beginning to look like just another mirage in the desert, things are Sunderland Til I Die-bleak again at St James' Park.
'Announce Mbappe' has turned into 'Oh God, please not Avram Grant?!'
Here's the fallout and more from one of the darker days in Newcastle's modern history.
Next in Line
So how do you replace a manager like Rafa Benitez?
Telegraph Sport claim Mike Ashley has already been 'made aware' of a host of interested names, as the club seeks to appoint someone who can work as a head coach, but (and this is the Telegraph's euphemism here) 'keep an open mind about everything else'.
The aim, they add is to get the new s̶u̶c̶k̶e̶r̶ manager in place in time for the trip to China to take part in the Asia Trophy next month.
But who are the names touted? Well, the Telegraph goes for: Jose Mourinho (Sir Bobby connection), Steve Bruce (Geordie), Sean Dyche (makes sense, I guess), David Moyes (the night is dark and full of terrors), Gennaro Gattuso (sometimes maybe good, sometimes maybe sh*t) and even a sensational return for Benitez if (and it's a big if) Sheikh Khaled rides in on his Arabian stallion to save the day.
Mourinho Dream Ticket?
The Mourinho links are getting traction elsewhere too.
As much as the Special One would probably love to take over as part of some sort of weird mind game with Rafa, his arrival would surely be dependent on the takeover happening and lots and lots of money being thrust in his general direction.
Sport Mediaset (via Football Italia) make the titillating claim that Mou would bring ex-Inter treble-winner, nutjob and Zidane-headbutt-receiver Marco Materazzi as part of his backroom staff.
Umm ok then..?
On the other hand, Newcastle don't have a shortlist of managers prepared at all say the Times, with Benitez's impending departure catching them unawares, despite, y'know, being quite a while coming and very, very obvious.
The report claims, "sources insist no serious thought has been given to Benítez’s successor and no shortlist compiled. There had been confidence that Benítez would sign a one-year contract extension."
At the end of the article they chuck Laurent Blanc and David Moyes in there as possible candidates - as if those two men are in any way peers.
Slow Boat to China?
Meanwhile Rafa is already considering a move to China, with the Mirror among others suggesting he has an offer of 12m a year (nice work if you can get it) to take the helm at Dalian Yifang in the Super League.
Should he take up the rather generous proposal, Benitez would be re-united with his former Napoli charge Marek Hamsik who joined Dalian in February.
Dalian aren't having a great time of it in the CSL and sit in 11 after 14 games, despite the presence of Hamsik and Arsenal target Yannick Carrasco.
The Mirror also adds Benitez would be interested in re-taking the wheel at Chelsea. However, with Frank Lampard but a whisker away from official confirmation that seems about as likely as that idiot who punched that horse once being made the new Toon boss.
Here's a list of a few words and phrases Wor Alan has used to describe Rafa's exit in the first four paragraphs of his column for the Sun:
- Desperately sad
- Massive blow
He's not best pleased. Later on in the piece he claims, "for Newcastle, he [Rafa] was probably worth ten to 15 points a season."
Seems low if anything.