Former Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez has hit back at United's managing director Lee Charnley over claims he left the club due to money.
Charnley used Sunday's pre-match programme to address Benitez's exit claiming the Spaniard chose to move to China 'for money' at the end of his Newcastle contract rather than committing his future to the Magpies.
We understand and expected the disappointment that Rafa's departure caused.
Benitez saw those quotes and used his debut column in the Athletic to offer his version of events, suggesting if money was his motivation he could have left Newcastle long before this summer.
People in Newcastle have been talking about my decision to move to China without knowing what happened behind the scenes during my three years at St James’ Park. I haven’t wanted to say too much about that — I’ve encouraged supporters to get behind Steve Bruce and his new team — but I’ve been made aware of what Lee Charnley, Newcastle’s managing director, claimed in the club’s match programme last weekend and I think it’s important I address that.
Benitez also claimed Newcastle made him an offer at the end of last season - with the same salary as three years earlier and less control over transfers - that he simply couldn't accept. He said, "after three years of unfulfilled promises, I didn’t trust them."
"Over my long career, and especially in my time at Newcastle, I’ve always shown commitment to my club, its city and its community and I’ve done it with professionalism and honesty.
"I want to remember the good moments I spent in the north-east — and there were many of them — and not have to keep denying things about my time there or about my departure.
"Newcastle’s board had a year to sort out my contract but, when we met after the end of last season, they didn’t make me an offer I could accept. They told me they didn’t want to invest in the academy or the training ground — if they like, I can explain the reason why Mike Ashley refused to do that.
"Their idea of a project was a policy of signing players under 24 and, in my opinion, the budget available was not enough to compete for the top 10.
"After that meeting, I knew they would not come back with a serious offer and, when it arrived, 19 days later, it was for the same salary as three years earlier and with less control over signings. Charnley’s comments in the programme about having a deal agreed for Joelinton in February explains a lot that I couldn’t understand at that time.
At that stage, Benitez felt his only hope of staying at Newcastle was if a potential takeover materialised.
"When we finished 10th in the Premier League in our first season back, all players and staff were paid a bonus — aside from my coaching team," Benitez revealed. "That felt like a punishment for me not signing an extension.
"So, by the end, I knew there would not be a proper offer and they knew I was not signing.
"I couldn’t explain that in public because I was not allowed to talk to the press without their permission, so I was waiting until late June, like every fan, hoping there would be good news about Newcastle’s prospective takeover.
"The time was passing and we were losing job opportunities in Europe. I couldn’t wait forever. I’m a family man and I have a responsibility to them, my staff, Paco, Antonio and Mikel, and their families, too. I don’t like to gamble with the future of my people.
"In front of us we had three options: nothing serious from Newcastle, the hope of a possible takeover or a different project. Yes, it was a big offer in China — I have never denied that — but it was also another continent and another league, from a club giving us a lot of recognition and respect. That decision wasn’t easy, but it was clear."
Rafa released a statement on social media to Newcastle United fans, upon the announcement of his departure from the club: