Rafael Benitez breaks silence on Newcastle United exit and says Mike Ashley ‘did not share my vision’ for the

‘very sad’

Spaniard says he wanted to sign a new contract at St James’ Park, but the club hierarchy were not willing to invest into strengthening the squad

Rafael Benitez has broken his silence on his ‘very sad’ departure as Newcastle United manager, saying he and owner Mike Ashley ‘did not share the same vision’.

The Spaniard issued a statement on Monday morning, explaining his decision to leave St James’ Park after three years in charge, which included winning the Championship and surviving for two years in the top flight despite a limited budget.

Benitez was adored by the Newcastle fans, who have been left heartbroken by his departure

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Benitez was adored by the Newcastle fans, who have been left heartbroken by his departure

He also paid tribute to the Toon Army, who he says will ‘always be in my heart’.

Benitez said he wanted to sign a new contract on Tyneside, but felt he could not continue as the club were not willing to match his ambition and invest in the squad.

The Champions League-winning boss said that, although there were “challenging” times, he did not regret his decision to move to Newcastle and the only reason he was not still there was a disagreement with those who run the club about how they should move forward.

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“Thank you for three fantastic, exciting and, at times, challenging years,” Benitez, wrote in an open letter to fans.

“From winning the Championship, to our two seasons in the Premier League, fans, staff and players have all been united.

“I wanted to stay, but I didn’t just want to sign an extended contract, I wanted to be part of a project.

Supporters were desperate for Benitez to stay, and now they have another reason to be furious with owner Mike Ashley

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Supporters were desperate for Benitez to stay, and now they have another reason to be furious with owner Mike Ashley

“Unfortunately it became increasingly clear to me that those at the top of the club did not share the same vision.

“I’m very sad about that, but I do not regret for one moment my decision to come to Tyneside and I’m very proud about what we achieved together.

“I will always have you in my heart.”