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Rafa Benitez slams Newcastle exit claims and explains appointment decision

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The Magpies manager has had lucrative offers to work in the Chinese Super League but he has turned his back on them to stay at a club he now claims will have achieved their season’s goal if they finish one place above the drop zone.

While such loyalty has fuelled his love affair with the fans, Rafa Benitez has come in for criticism in recent days for his perceived pessimism and safety-first tactics.

“I wanted to come to England to stay close to my family and then this club was an opportunity to be one of the top 10,” said Benitez, whose side face Chelsea on Saturday. “That was my view.

“I have had teams and agents talking with more money than here but still I want to do something here, I want to stay in England, I’m close to my family, the fans are fantastic so you try to do something properly. It’s a challenge but it’s a risk.

“We are losing games and near the bottom of the table and that’s not a good situation. For this massive city to be in a relegation battle again, it’s a pity.”

Benitez claims that, far from being a pessimist, he is a realist and believes that Newcastle face more pressure than their rivals.

He has been stung by criticism since fielding an understrength team against Blackburn in the FA Cup, with his side fighting back to draw 1-1, but that will not prevent him doing so again in Tuesday night’s replay at Ewood Park.

“If you talk about the other teams at the bottom, they are not as big as Newcastle,” he said. “A massive club with 52,000 fans at every game and sometimes 9,000 when we go away.

“The reality is we have to compete in a division when we cannot compete with Bournemouth who are spending money. Forget about the top six, we have to compete against the others and have to be realistic.

“Am I happy going into every game saying “Can we get a point, can we get three?” No, but I have to do it. If I make a mistake with team selection or tactics whatever. Fine. But in my experience, I am not better than others but I make less mistakes.”

Benitez looks set to leave when his contract expires in June but still believes Newcastle, with better backing from its owner, can hit greater heights.

“We have to do things a bit better if we want to maximise the potential of the club,” he said in thinly veiled dig at owner Mike Ashley.

Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri, meanwhile, has rebuked Bayern Munich for their public pursuit of Callum Hudson-Odoi.

The 18-year-old winger, whose contract expires in June 2020, has been linked with a big money move to the Bundesliga side.

Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic admitted the club’s interest in Hudson-Odoi on Wednesday, much to Chelsea’s annoyance, with the Blues threatening to report the Germans to FIFA if there is any evidence of an illegal approach.

And Sarri said: “It’s not professional because they are talking about a player under contract with Chelsea. They didn’t respect our club.”

Sarri has recommended Chelsea need to recruit two players but declined to say their positions. He said: “I spoke with the club and the club knows very well my opinion. In my opinion we need two players. Then it depends on the club decision.”

It appears obvious, though, that the players Sarri wants are a striker and a midfielder.

Sarri is demanding a replacement after Cesc Fabregas completed his move to Monaco yesterday and also if Alvaro Morata is allowed to leave this month. Sevilla and Atletico Madrid have been linked with the Spain striker.




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