London (AFP) – Rafael Benitez said Saturday there was a “good chance” he would remain as manager of Newcastle United despite the club’s relegation from the Premier League.
The Spaniard added he had started talks with the north-east club’s management, with a final decision expected within the next two weeks.
Former Liverpool manager Benitez is generally well-regarded by many Newcastle fans after being handed what was widely believed to be a tough job in keeping the Magpies in English football’s top-flight.
Benitez took over on Tyneside when Newcastle sacked former England manager Steve McClaren with 10 Premier League games left in the season but could not stop them dropping down to the Championship for the second time in seven years.
Newcastle’s relegation was confirmed when north-east rivals Sunderland beat Everton in midweek.
Benitez had a break clause inserted into his three-year contract should Newcastle drop out of the Premier League, and the former Real Madrid and Chelsea boss has been linked with several top-flight jobs.
But Benitez said he could yet stay at St James’ Park following encouraging talks with Newcastle managing director Lee Charnley on Thursday.
“We want a strong team to be promoted to the Premier League again as soon as possible and that is the situation now,” said Benitez on Saturday in his first public comments since the Newcastle’s relegation was confirmed.
“We have to talk, we will have more meetings and then we will see what happens.
“What we said in this meeting is ‘we will have more meetings’ so it was very positive in terms of the things we were discussing and I can say to the fans that we will continue.”
He added: “I am quite happy with everything here. Can we improve things? Can we change some things? Then it will be easier for me to make a decision. Obviously these conversations are with this idea.
“We are working as professionals and we are talking and I think in a couple of weeks maximum, maybe, we will have an idea.
“But if I am here and I am discussing these things it’s because in my head it’s a chance, it’s a good chance.”
Benitez said he was grateful for the backing he had received from Newcastle fans since joining the Magpies, who will look to bow out of the Premier League with victory at home to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
“I’m really happy with the reaction of the fans,” he said. “I’m really impressed with them. That’s it.
“Tomorrow they will show their appreciation and we will try to do well for them.”
Meanwhile Benitez downplayed suggestions he might fill the vacancy at Premier League side Everton caused by the sacking of his compatriot, Roberto Martinez.
“I have seen the news but I haven’t talked with anyone,” he said. “At the moment my priority is Tottenham tomorrow and then after the meetings that I will have, and hopefully everything will be fine.
“We’ll see what happens. What happens in football you never know.”
Newcastle are unbeaten in their last five games but that record counted for little following Sunderland’s victory over Everton.
“We are really disappointed because we were working so hard, the staff and the players,” Benitez said.
“We knew that we could stay up. We needed a bit of time, a bit of luck, a little bit of something different in some games. Then everything could have been different.
“We have to think about what we have to do to be here in the Premier League as soon as possible.”
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