'Pantomime villain' Mike Ashley makes transfer pledge to Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez

'Pantomime villain' Mike Ashley makes transfer pledge to Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez

'Pantomime villain' Mike Ashley makes transfer pledge to Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez

"In this case, what the players did last season, and what they have done this year, was massive".

Chelsea have been long term suitors and offers in excess of £30m would have to be seriously considered on Tyneside, even if there is a valuation of nearer £50m placed on him.

Asked if he would consider selling Lascelles, United's manager said: "Not really".

Rafa Benitez has spoken publicly about his future as Newcastle United manager amid speculation the Spaniard will be leaving the club.

Manager Sam Allardyce wants to bolster his defence as his side have conceded the most goals of any side in the top half this season. I concentrate on my football.

He said: "I think this week, maybe there will be another conversation and we will see where we are for the next week".

I am tied down to 2023 with my contract and as far as I am concerned I love playing for Newcastle.

"My priority is to stay in England".

The table can be deceptive as well, last season Southampton finished eighth but still sacked Claude Puel, on the surface that appeared freaky as they had only dropped from 6th to 8th but they had actually dropped 17 points from that previous 2015/16 season. This was my first season in the Premier League, it was about surviving and we have done that. "But I will just concentrate on trying to do well against Chelsea in what will be a tough game".

'I would also like to applaud the players, led fantastically by the captain Jamaal Lascelles. "I am more intelligent on the pitch than I was last season".

But still without a call-up, and with Southgate's squad announced on Wednesday, Lascelles accepts the manager has his chosen defenders. The fans appreciate this togetherness, and the relationship we have created.

Earlier, Benitez, when pressed on his future, said: 'What I would like is to be sure that the team is able to compete to finish above 10th. If you want to continue growing, normally you have to try to keep your best players.

Striker Joselu tweeted: "I just can say THANK YOU". Give him some money to spend then.

When Rafa joined he reignited something that has been missing from the club for years and with him here, he has ignited the passion or spirit in others.

"I would like to thank Rafa Benitez for his magnificent achievement this season", said Ashley, who put the club up for sale late a year ago.

"We were all working together to achieve what we wanted to achieve, which is success for the club".

"As players he has a lot of respect from us".

Plenty of room for optimism BUT only if Rafa Benitez stays AND is backed properly.

"As players we ultimately have to cross the white line and turn in a performance".

"It is clear what we need".

"Now, we have to make sure that we do the right things and are on the same page".

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