Rafa Benitez was within hours of taking charge of Spain’s World Cup campaign.
But instead of bossing a galaxy of stars in Russia, the Newcastle manager has spent another frustrating summer on Tyneside
He was offered the job after Julen Lopetegui's sacking on the eve of the finals — and the Magpies were open to a loan deal
The former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager has had one weekend off since May, staying at home to work on transfer deals.
With just three weeks to go until the transfer deadline, Benitez said he is “not 100 per cent happy” as the club refuses yet again to swoop quickly for his top targets and spend big.
Benitez, who has taken Toon on a pre-season trip to Ireland, says he is “wheeling and dealing” again this summer despite United finishing 10th and banking £123million of TV cash last season.
It has left Geordie fans asking why the club isn’t backing Benitez and is instead driving him towards the exit door.
Only owner Mike Ashley has the answer, but he is saying nothing.
Benitez is staying as diplomatic as possible, still hoping for a successful end to the window.
The Spaniard said: “Sell to buy? It seems it is more or less like that. It is not ideal but we will try to manage the best way possible.
“I was expecting maybe something different but we will manage what is going on and try to be sure that we bring the best players possible with the conditions we have and try to improve the squad.”
Newcastle have sold Mikel Merino to Real Sociedad for £10m and replaced him with former Swansea star Ki Sung-Yueng on a free.
Kenedy has been borrowed off Chelsea again and keeper Martin Dubravka's loan was made permanent for £4.5m.
Benitez added: “I think it’s normal for us now to be like that. Unfortunately, we wheel and deal – it’s the way for us. As soon as the price goes high, I know we can’t buy them.
“We have to be realistic with our budget, maybe sell some players and then buy some players. We have to adapt; we know the situation.”
Benitez is refusing to sell £13m Matt Ritchie to Stoke because he likes his attitude and work-rate, and the fact potential replacement Andros Townsend will cost more than £20m.
Aleksandar Mitrovic is likely to join Fulham for £20m following his loan spell there last term.
Newcastle have an interest in West Brom’s Salomon Rondon, but the £16.5m asking price is a lot of money for a striker who will be 29 in September. A £4m loan fee has been mooted instead.
Benitez said: “We are in the same position as we were last year.”
The 58-year-old Spaniard was offered the job of emergency coach of his national side when Julen Lopetegui was sacked on the eve of the World Cup, and Newcastle were happy to release him for five weeks, believing it could benefit the club.
But Spain ran out of time to get a deal done and handed the manager role instead to Fernando Hierro.
There are serious political tensions around the Spain squad, so Benitez had little interest in taking the job on a permanent basis — Luis Enrique has been appointed now — after the World Cup.
He has also knocked back offers from clubs in three countries this summer and has instead dedicated himself to resolving Newcastle’s recruitment problems.
Asked if he has had a holiday during the close-season, Benitez said: “No. I was at home and on the phone.
“For me, the last years have been more or less the same — I have been around and on the phone.
“I had a weekend in Spain. A Saturday and Sunday to see my mother and family.”
He has spoken to virtually every major club in a desperate search for young players and loan deals.
Asked if all the transfer toil had been worth it, he replied. “I have tried to do my best but we will see....”
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