NEWCASTLE were last night searching for a new manager amid a furious backlash from fans after announcing Rafael Benitez will leave the club at the end of the month.
After the Magpies revealed they had failed to reach an agreement with Benitez over a new contract, fans ramped up pressure on owner Mike Ashley (below) to follow the hugely popular Spaniard out of the club.
Their former captain Alan Shearer labelled the decision a ‘shambles’ and supporters’ group True Faith called it ‘utter insanity’.
Newcastle’s statement said: ‘It is with disappointment we announce manager Rafael Benitez will leave Newcastle United upon the expiry of his contract on June 30.
‘We have worked hard to extend Rafa’s contract over a significant period of time.
‘However, it has not been — and will not be — possible to reach an agreement with Rafa and his representatives. Rafa’s coaching staff, Paco de Miguel Moreno, Antonio Gomez Perez and Mikel Antia, will also leave the club on June 30. We would like to thank Rafa and his coaching team for their significant contribution to what has been collectively achieved. We would also like to thank our supporters, players and staff for their patience during a period of uncertainty. The process to appoint a successor will now begin.’
Toon legend Shearer reacted by saluting Benitez on Twitter, while closing his post with ‘#Shambles’.
Meanwhile, television presenters and lifelong fans Ant & Dec also reacted with dismay, claiming Benitez’s departure was ‘disastrous’ and urging Ashley to get out of the club.
It is understood Benitez was not given advance warning of the announcement, although he had reportedly declined the club’s latest offer of talks.
The situation is further complicated as Ashley is in talks with several potential purchasers, including Dubai-based billionaire Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who claimed last month he had ‘agreed terms’ with the Sports Direct chief.