Contrary to reports, it was Newcastle United who offered manager Rafa Benitez to Spain in the wake of Julen Lopetegui’s sacking ahead of the 2018 World Cup, according to Royal Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales.
After Lopetegui accepted an offer to manage Real Madrid, the Spanish FA made the stunning decision to relieve him of his duties before naming Fernando Hierro as head coach on the eve of the World Cup.
Reports in the days after Hierro’s appointment suggested the Spanish FA made an approach about Benitez’s availability, but Rubiales says Newcastle offered the national team a chance to procure the 58-year-old’s services.
(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)
“When I sacked Julen I immediately called Hierro and told him I didn’t want to make any changes. Two days later a letter arrived from Newcastle saying, ‘Are you interested in our coach? He’s at your disposition.’ We said thanks but no,” Rubiales said, as translated by Richard Martin of Reuters.
“We would have never done that. We couldn’t hire Benitez because it would have been acting in the same way for which we reproached Julen.”
It’s unclear if Newcastle’s offer was for Benitez to coach Spain on a short-term basis, or if it was meant to be a permanent move.
Spain’s World Cup campaign ended with a disappointing loss to host Russia in the round of 16. Former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique was named head coach of the national team after the tournament ended.
Benitez confirmed there was a “chance” that he could’ve coached Spain, but insisted he was happy to remain with Newcastle.