​Departing Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez has admitted he hoped to stay in charge at St James' Park, but could not continue under Mike Ashley's ownership.

The Spaniard forged a strong relationship with Toon supporters during his three-year stint on Tyneside, leading the side to promotion in his first full season before securing top-flight safety on a limited budget in the following two campaigns. However, Benitez was unable to agree a new deal with the club as his contract ran out, leading to a frustrating exit for both himself and fans.


​Newcastle confirmed on 24 June that they would be ​parting company with their hugely popular coach, with many condemning the influence of Ashley on that outcome, regardless of which team they follow.

Benitez had not commented on the situation until now, the ex-​Reds manager posting an open letter to Magpies supporters on ​his website which read: "Thank you for three fantastic, exciting and, at times, challenging years.

"What we have had here – your support, your affection and your passion – has been unbelievable for me. I wanted to stay but I didn’t just want to sign an extended contract, I wanted to be part of a project.

"Unfortunately, it became increasingly clear to me that those at the top of the club did not share the same vision," Benitez explained. "I’m very sad about that, but I do not regret for one moment my decision to come to Tyneside and I’m very proud about what we achieved together. I will always have you in my heart."

The revelation will only increase feelings of resentment towards their unwanted owner from Newcastle fans, though the anger will do nothing to bring Benitez back.

The Magpies board have already begun their search for his replacement and are ​reportedly in for Porto coach Sergio Conceicao, but may have to pay as much as £18m to bring the Portuguese manager to the club.