Rafael Benitez hints at long-term Newcastle stay if club shows ambition

Rafael Benitez says he could happily stay at Newcastle for a decade provided the project is right.

The Spaniard celebrated an eventful two years in the St James’ Park managerial hotseat in March and has 12 months remaining on his existing contract.

Fans are desperate for the 57-year-old to extend his stay after seeing him drag the club back into the Premier League and all but secure its continued presence there.

On Sunday, live on Sky Sports Premier League, he will go head to head with Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who is in the 22nd year of his reign, and Benitez admits a long-term mission is appealing.

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Asked if his assertion in a television interview last year that he could stay at the club for 10 years was realistic or possible, he said: “Yes. What I say is you need a project.

“I like to work with young players, I like to improve young players, but I like to win. I want to be competitive and I want to win.

“You have to have a mix of young players and players with experience – that means you have to spend some money because if not, you cannot compete now and win something.”

Having won La Liga with Valencia and the Champions League with Liverpool as well as taking charge at Real Madrid, Benitez knows all about the pressure of football management.

He is an admirer of Gunners counterpart Wenger, but knows that the criticism the Frenchman has received in recent seasons comes with the territory.

He said: “Because I have been at a top side for a while, you know you have to win. Everyone is expecting that you have to win the league or you have to win the cup or you have to win the Champions League.

“I know it’s not easy, but at the same time, you know it’s part of the job when you are at a top side.”

Benitez enjoys a good relationship with Wenger having not always been able to say the same about the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho.

Asked why that might be, he said: “I liked the way his team was playing, his behaviour. He’s someone who respects others and his approach has always been nice, positive.

“He is upset like everyone when you lose or when you think that something is wrong, but still for me, there was a big difference between him and maybe the others.”