By 90Min
July 27, 2019

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has lashed out at former manager Rafa Benitez, claiming that he always put money and his own interests first when in charge of the club.

Having led Newcastle to the Championship title in 2016/17, followed by two mid-table finishes in the Premier League, Benitez left the club last month to join Chinese club Dalian Yifang when he was unable to agree a contract extension to keep him on Tyneside. 

Ashley was widely criticised for failing to keep hold of the popular manager, but he has now responded with his own version of events.

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"I'd say it was money first, Rafa, then the club last. He took the totally soft option, took the money and went to China. That disappoints me", Ashley told the Daily Mail.

"At one stage they were talking about a one-year contract extension and I said my preference would be for an eight-year contract. That's what I have to do in business when I invest. I have to take a medium to long-term view."

However, this did not materialise, and Ashley revealed how Benitez's handling of the transfer of Joelinton from Hoffenheim led to a swift breakdown in their relationship

The Brazilian completed his move to Newcastle earlier this week, but Ashley claimed that the deal was agreed back in February, only for Benitez to stall the process as he looked to clarify his own future at the club.

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"His view was that he didn't want to commit to the transfer until he knew what his position was with the club next season. From there, the relationship deteriorated very quickly. I was personally very disappointed, and that's putting it politely."

The issues surrounding the signing of Joelinton are not the only problems that Newcastle have had in the transfer market this year. The Magpies also let Ayoze Perez, their top scorer in the Premier League last season, join Leicester in June for £30m.

Perez was allowed to leave when Leicester triggered his release clause, with Ashley admitting that it was a mistake to have included such a low release clause in his contract in the first place - before confirming he has no intention of selling young midfielder Sean Longstaff, amid interest from Manchester United.

"We didn't want to sell Perez, but had no option once Leicester reached that figure. But we've learned our lesson on release clauses from here.

Ross Kinnaird/GettyImages

"If you've got one like Sean - keep him."

Newcastle begin their Premier League campaign at home to Arsenal on August 11 with Steve Bruce in charge of his boyhood club, where they will look to put a chaotic summer behind them.

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