Exclusive - The prospective new owners of Newcastle United are prepared to offer former manager Rafa Benítez the chance to return to the dugout at St James' Park once their takeover goes through.
The Spaniard, who left Newcastle last summer after failing to agree on a new contract, remains a hugely popular figure among fans, having stuck with the club through relegation to lead them back to the Premier League.
Benítez clashed with current owner Mike Ashley over his vision for the club and instead penned a lucrative deal with Chinese Super League side Dalian Professional last summer, but a source has confirmed to 90min that the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund are ready to give Benítez the chance to return once their purchase of the club is confirmed.
Amanda Staveley, who is helping to get the deal over the line, is on the lookout for a new backroom team to manage the football side of things, and Benítez has emerged as a likely candidate as a result of his reputation and immense popularity in Newcastle.
Alongside a new manager to replace Steve Bruce, Staveley also wants to make some changes to the board. Frank McParland, an experienced football director, is being considered for a role at the club along with Owen Brown, and given both have close relations to Benítez, adding either would make any return for the Spaniard far easier.
One concern is the cost of buying Benítez out of his contract. He is one of the highest-paid managers around, so compensation would not be cheap, and the Spaniard would have to take a pay cut if he was to return to St James.
“Steve Bruce is not the long-term answer and he knows that, but Newcastle are in a position where they can target a world-class manager, who they know, love and would surely come back," a source close to the situation revealed.
“Rafa knows he has unfinished business on Tyneside, and the chance to return to England will surely be too much for him to turn down – although Newcastle also know he won’t be cheap.”
It has previously been confirmed to 90min that the prospective new owners are confident that their takeover will soon be completed, and they hope to be calling the shots at Newcastle by the end of the month.
Improving the playing squad is high on their agenda, but finding a manager capable of challenging for silverware is also viewed as an important step.
The PIF see Benítez as the ideal candidate, and the hope is that he would leap at the chance to return to Newcastle under new ownership.