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Petition launched in an attempt to keep Rafa Benitez at Newcastle United

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Rafa's three year stay on Tyneside could soon be over

It's been another season of consolidation for Newcastle United in the Premier League, which has to be considered as a success. The Magpies have once again been outspent by the majority of their rivals when it comes to recruiting new talent over the course of the campaign, with the majority of their squad still remaining from their Championship winning season a couple of years ago.

Newcastle may not compete for top four finishes or league titles anymore but they're still without a doubt one of the biggest clubs in English football, which is mainly what attracted Rafa Benitez to the job. The Spaniard replaced Steve McClaren in March 2016 with the club staring an inevitable relegation firmly in the face.

The Magpies were unfortunately sucked into the second tier but responded magnificently, winning the title and going onto consolidate themselves in the Premier League in each of the next two seasons. Rafa has been right at the very forefront of everything positive up in the north east, with him getting a huge amount from a squad that's desperate for investment.

Rafa Benitez
Rafa hasn't been afraid to hide his frustrations with the Newcastle hierarchy

What he's achieved with the Magpies has made him something of a cult hero, with him certainly the most popular Newcastle manager since the late, great Sir Bobby Robson. And if the club wishes to progress and push on it's absolutely imperative that they retain his services and as time goes on, it looks increasingly unlikely.

His differences with controversial owner Mike Ashley have been well documented and the fans have certainly voiced who they favour in this battle. Benitez has made it clear to the board what he wants in order to stay in the north east but after three years of disagreements between both parties - we can see him moving on when his contract ends on 30th June.

It seems truly bizarre that the club won't get behind a manager who's regarded as one of the best in the world. What Benitez has achieved throughout his career is mightily impressive and quite frankly, there aren't many adequate replacements who could come in and make Newcastle a better side. This is a big few weeks coming up for the football club as a whole and it's vital they get this right.

Petition launched to retain their man

When Newcastle United appointed Rafa Benitez back in 2016 it was seen as something of a coup and now three years on, after all that's happened, it's still a massive coup that he remains at St. James' Park. The 59 year-old has a stunning CV, working at elite clubs such as Real Madrid, Liverpool, Napoli and Chelsea, so you'd think that the Magpies would be doing everything in their power to support & keep him right?

In his three full seasons at the club he's achieved his objective on each occasion. Promotion and two seasons of consolidation in the Premier League (one of which included a top half finish) are pretty remarkable when you see the lack of investment and current quality that's on their books.

In that period he's spent more than £10m on just four players, which is quite staggering when you consider the riches on offer in the Premier League. Clubs in the top flight all seem to be breaking their transfer records window-on-window in the current climate, but it took Newcastle 14 years to finally do theirs after the January capture of MLS prodigy Miguel Almiron - eclipsing the £17m paid to Real Madrid for Michael Owen in 2005.

Miguel Almiron
The signing of Miguel Almiron was a step in the right direction for Newcastle - but more money needs to be made available to convince Rafa to remain in the north east

It feels like since day one through the door at St. James' Park that Rafa has been pleading for the board to back him and perhaps the signing of Almiron was a late effort to do that - but it appears that it's not enough. As the seasons progressed the constant speculation surrounding his future has increased and his interviews with the media don't spell out good news for the Newcastle fans, who are desperate for their idol to remain on Tyneside.

He claims he's told the board what he wants/needs to stay and should they fail to convince him - you really do worry about the future of the club. Matters on the pitch would suffer drastically but the clubs non-existent relationship with their passionate fanbase would plummet to new lows.

In a frantic final bid to try convince Rafa to remain, the Newcastle Chronicle have launched the 'Rafa Must Stay' campaign - such is the faith in their man. The Newcastle based paper is working alongside the fans in a bid to get the Spaniard to remain on Tyneside and it's been backed by club legend Alan Shearer - which speaks volumes.

Agonising few weeks in store for Newcastle fans

The campaign and message from the fans is clear for Rafa. Now it's time for Mike Ashley and the board to invest in his vision and get this great club back where they belong.

Benitez is a manager who's used to challenging for silverware so the last couple of seasons battling in the bottom half of the table are clearly not good enough for him, especially with the club reluctant to spend money like their rivals are. Newcastle aren't moving forward as a football club and if they want to do that, they have to keep Rafa. Simple.

The money spent in January in recruiting Miguel Almiron was a promising sign but that can't be the start and end. He must be backed and if he is, who knows where he can take them? His team have improved year-on-year in difficult circumstances and he's really changed the culture around St. James' Park.

The current crop of Newcastle players may not be as talented as their predecessors of years gone by but they make up for it in desire, belief and determination. Rafa has built a hard working ethos at the club and if he's in a position to add more quality, we're sure the board would see their faith and investment vindicated very soon.

Rafa Benitez Newcastle
Saturday's clash with Rafa's former club Liverpool could end up being his final game as Newcastle United manager at St. James' Park

Mike Ashley is someone who the Newcastle United fans have never taken to and he's made it clear that he wants out of the club too should the right buyer come along. But in the meantime it's in his best interests to get the club in the best position possible whilst keeping all of their stakeholders (the fans) happy.

Ashley has never worked alongside a manager like Rafa. Rafa is always wanting to improve, always demanding more which is probably why there's such strain on their relationship. He'll be hard work for Ashley but it's because he wants to win and take the club to the next level - something which it appears Ashley is reluctant to fund.

Saturday's game with Liverpool is a massive one in the context of the Premier League season. The Reds are going for the Premier League title and it sees Rafa potentially have a huge say in it, against a club that he loves. But away from the romantic story of him taking on his former employers, it could also end up being his final one at St. James' Park as Newcastle United manager - so it's going to be interesting to see how he reacts at the final whistle.

Following Saturday's encounter with the Reds, Newcastle travel to Craven Cottage to face Fulham in their last Premier League game of the season. Time's running out for the Magpies to retain their man and it's imperative that they work fast as he'll certainly be a man in demand should he choose to run down his contract. Mr Ashley, get that chequebook out pronto.