In Focus: Ashley will need to bend over backwards to keep Benitez at Newcastle United

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is keen to open talks with manager Rafael Benitez about extending his contract, according to The Times.

What’s the word?

The Spaniard’s future has been a talking point for months, despite his current deal not expiring until the end of next season.

Benitez made it clear in the summer that he was unhappy with the club’s transfer activity, but he decided to stay put and lead the Magpies’ charge in the Premier League.

Now, The Times report that Ashley has invited Benitez for dinner to explain his plans regarding a new contract and to repair any damage caused to their working relationship.

The publication claims that the ex-Liverpool manager will make a decision about his future at Newcastle after he has listened to what Ashley has to say.

Could he stay?

Benitez did not walk away in the summer, even though he was visibly frustrated with the lack of transfers.

However, the 57-year-old has had issues with owners before – Liverpool’s former duo Tom Hicks and George Gillett – which has led to his departure.

This means that Ashley will have to do everything in his means to prove to Benitez that the club has a plan moving forward.

Newcastle need the Spaniard more than he needs them, and arguably a lot will depend on where the North-East outfit finish this season – that’s if the manager stays until the end.