Newcastle United are being linked with the shock appointment of Jose Mourinho. The former Manchester United, Real Madrid and Chelsea manager perhaps has unfinished business in the Premier League and the Daily Mirror claim that the Portuguese is ready for talks with the potential new owners over the job.
This, of course, would only happen if the club’s much-mooted takeover is completed. Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nehayan is said to have the Portuguese high on his wishlist.
It is at this point that one must point out that Newcastle currently have a manager: Rafael Benitez.
The Spaniard has history with Mourinho; they feuded while the former was at Liverpool and the latter was at Chelsea, while Benitez later took over at both Real and Inter Milan after Mourinho enjoyed spells there.
Now, though we are in the realms of fantasy, it has to be said that this is not like before. Benitez has done a genuinely brilliant job in the North East. He is perhaps the best boss outside of the top six and, while he oversaw relegation in 2016, he also stayed and oversaw promotion.
There has not been a more popular boss at St James’ Park since Sir Bobby Robson, despite the owner’s apparent refusal to give him the support he needs.
For a billionaire sheikh to stroll in and instantly undo all of that in search of a vanity appointment, a ‘look at me and look at how much money I’ve got’ move, would get this takeover off to the worst possible start and would be akin to folding two aces in a high-stakes poker game.
As it is, anyone who manages to bin off current owner Mike Ashley will be viewed as a saviour in the city. He has not invested in the club sufficiently, and the club’s record purchase is Miguel Almiron, who joined for £20m just this year. In today’s market, that’s a pittance.
But the prospective new powerbroker could throw all of the goodwill away almost immediately if he decides to dispense with Benitez.
In reality, his work at the club deserves a statue and a 10-year contract along with the backing that Ashley should have handed him all these years. Sheikh Khaled has the deep pockets needed to provide that. Simply allowing the 59-year-old the chance to manoeuvre in the transfer market, to bring in the players that he wants, would all but guarantee the club’s success next season.
There is even the chance that, if the squad is deepened, he could prioritise the cups and bring the club their first trophy since the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 2006. They haven’t won the FA Cup since 1955.
Benitez has all the ability in the world to break that duck and truly cement himself as a club hero. He does not, in any sense of the word, deserve to be sent away, least of all for Mourinho to be appointed.
It would be an insult to everything he has built, to all he has achieved in spite of Ashley’s reign, and it would prove that the fans were simply jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire in terms of their club’s owner.
Benitez needs to be signed up to a new deal and backed heartily if the takeover is completed, not moved on for a manager whose last two Premier League appointments have ended in disastrous implosion. It really is as simple as that.