Newcastle United legend says club must back Benitez to keep him happy

Newcastle United legend and BBC Sport pundit Alan Shearer says Magpies manager Rafa Benitez must be given funds to strengthen his squad if they are to keep him at the club following their return to the Premier League on Monday night.

They secured promotion back to the top flight with a 4-1 win against Preston North End at St James’ Park, but despite spending more than £50m on transfer fees last summer following their relegation to the Championship – although they made a significant amount from the sales of Moussa Sissoko, Georginio Wijnaldum and Andros Townsend – the Premier League’s all-time top goalscorer says Mike Ashley must back the Spaniard again.

He told BBC Radio 5 live: “I would think giving him transfer funds would be the key to keeping hold of him.

“He’s a huge figure at the club. He loves the place and the passion of fans – and it’s hugely important Newcastle keep hold of him.”

Benitez could have left St James’ Park last summer as part of a clause in his contract if Newcastle went down, but he instead decided to sign a new three-year deal.

But tensions between himself and Ashley intensified during the January transfer window with Benitez frustrated at their lack of activity, and Shearer believes the club can’t afford to stand still if they want to keep the 57-year-old and avoid being in another relegation battle in the Premier League next season

He added: “I’m sure he will demand the team has to be improved and will demand a few quid to do that.

“You can’t stand still. You can’t be loyal and give all the players that have got the team promoted a chance. You’ve got to go out and buy new players.

“People realise the team needs improving to get to where they want to be and that’s got to be the top half of the Premier League.”

Newcastle can still win the Championship title but they will likely have to win their final two fixtures against Cardiff City and Barnsley if they are to do so as they currently sit four points behind leaders Brighton and Hove Albion.