Rafa Benitez was honest and engaging ahead of tomorrow’s game against Tottenham Hotspur.
Newcastle United’s manager answered question after question about the club’s efforts in the transfer market.
Benitez reiterated that he was “not happy” because things had not panned out as he had hoped following talks with Mike Ashley in May.
However, there was one question he couldn’t quite fully answer.
Asked why the club couldn’t afford a £25million striker in the cash-rich Premier League, Benitez said: “Now, in the market, you talk about the price of the player, the wages and the commission. We cannot.”
Asked why Newcastle couldn’t pay that much when other clubs could, he said: “Each one is different.”
Hopefully, we can do it. We have some weeks to do it. But I’m not expecting any miracles now.Rafa Benitez
And pressed on why, Benitez said: “For Huddersfield and Brighton (promoted with Newcastle), it’s one thing, For us, it’s another thing.
“The expectations are higher. Everybody has this feeling that we have to do this or that.
“But we cannot or we couldn’t and then it’s where we are. Each club is different.
“Some clubs spend massive money because they have a lot of resources. Some clubs maybe don’t do it.
“So I was not happy and now I have to move forward and try to concentrate on the next challenge, which is Tottenham.”
Ashley, however, shed some unexpected light on the club’s finances, through an interview on Sky Sports, just as journalists were leaving Benitez’s pre-match press conference at the club’s Benton training ground.
The Magpies’ owner insisted that he couldn’t put any more into the club – as his multi-billion pound fortune was tied up in Sports Direct shares.
“I’ve got to make it crystal clear that I’m nowhere near wealthy enough in football now to compete with the likes of Manchester City (owned by Sheikh Mansour, a member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi),” said Ashley.
“Basically, it’s a wealthy individual taking on what is the equivalent of countries. I cannot and I will not.”
So that has left Benitez and managing director Lee Charnley trying to make the numbers add up.
The club has spent just over £30million on five players, though the sales of Florian Thauvin and Daryl Murphy will have offset small proportion of that spend.
More players must go, though moving on Championship players on Premier League wages is hard, especially when they are on long contracts.
“We have some players who have good salaries for the Championship, and maybe Premier League teams are not interested,” said Bentiez.
“That’s our situation, especially as the market has changed and the prices have gone so high.
“If you kick the ball forward, they ask for £10million. If you put the ball in the net, £20million. Now it is very difficult.”
So all this has left Benitez unhappy.
But Newcastle and its fans can make Benitez, one of European football’s most respected and experienced coaches, happy.
And the 57-year-old isn’t thinking about walking away from the job.
“I was really happy for a while last season,” said Benitez.
“Hopefully, I will be happy on Sunday evening.”
Asked how the club made him happy, Benitez said: “If you know me, I had £17million at Liverpool and still we were challenging for the title. You can manage without big money.
“I’m a manager who has a lot of staff working behind me, trying to do things in a professional way.
“That is the same at every club. I have tried to my best with my staff.
“I try to be sensible with everyone at the club and try go in one direction.
“We did that. We were going in the right direction, but then we were not progressing as quickly as I would have expected.
“Hopefully, we can do it, we have some weeks to do it.”
Tellingly, he added: “I’m not expecting any miracles now.
“What I’m expecting is to improve the squad. If everything is fine and we have a team who can compete, let’s see if we can keep improving things.
Benitez, however, did want to reassure fans about his future. “I say that my commitment is there,” he said. “If we do what we have to do and do it in a professional way, thinking about football as a priority, we can improve.”