Rafa Benitez 'Keen' on Newcastle Return and Has Identified Two Transfer Targets Already

Robbie Copeland
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Newcastle's chances of securing the return of Rafa Benitez this summer have taken a major shot in the arm, as a report claims the Spaniard is 'keen' on a return to St James' Park.

Much to the dismay of the Magpies fanbase, Benitez left the club last summer, despite overachieving on a shoestring budget in the North East. Under the former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss, they recovered from relegation to the Championship, and re-established themselves as a top flight team with 10th and 13th-placed finishes.

Benitez's fractious relationship with owner Mike Ashley was no secret throughout his three years there, however, and after failing to have his growing concerns about the playing budget boosted, the manager walked out to join Chinese Super League club Dalian Yifang in the summer.

A new day is dawning on Tyneside, however, and a source told 90min last week that the club's prospective new owners, the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, are prepared to bring him back.

“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.”

Given that Benitez is not out of contract, he certainly won't come cheap, but 90min's information is in accord with what The Telegraph have reported over the weekend - that Benitez is 'keen' on returning, with his budgetary concerns set to be a thing of the past.

The Telegraph report also claims that among Benitez's transfer targets are John Stones and Ross Barkley. 90min understands that recruiting British talent will be a priority for the new board, and Stones is understood to be a target alongside Chris Smalling, enjoying a career resurgence on loan at AS Roma from Manchester United.

Benitez is said to have attempted to recruit Stones as far back as his tenure with Real Madrid, but although he may no longer have the prodigious reputation he earned while at Everton (thanks to a shaky season or two for Manchester City) his acquisition by the Magpies would remain a major coup.

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