Rafael Benitez had words of encouragement for both Manchester City and Newcastle United fans, insisting he is aiming to stop Liverpool while offering a positive update on his future.
Much has been made of Benitez’s potentially decisive role in the Premier League title race, with the Newcastle manager welcoming former club Liverpool to St James’ Park in the penultimate game of the season.
Newcastle beat City on Tyneside in January, boosting the Reds’ hopes at the time, but Benitez insists he has a good relationship with both clubs and will not be handing out any favours.
Liverpool are a point behind City, who play Leicester City on Monday.
“I think I have been very clear,” he told a pre-match news conference. “I am a professional and we have to do our job. My relationship with the city, with Liverpool, the club and the fans, is there.
“I was there six years, we won some trophies and had some good memories. But at the same time, when I went to play [against Liverpool] with Chelsea and with Newcastle United, we have to do our jobs like they will do [theirs].
“I am sure that Jurgen Klopp, in the same position, would try to do his best for his fans. We have 52,000 fans in our stadium for the last home game of the season.
“I think everybody understands that we are professionals and we will try to do our best. That’s it.
RB on @LFC: “They are having a great season. You could see against Barcelona, one of the best teams in the world, they were very aggressive and had control for a while, until Messi decided it had to be different. To win the Premier League would be massive for them.” #NUFC pic.twitter.com/a1kppbB9OU
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) May 3, 2019
“I have friends, obviously, in the Liverpool camp but I have friends also in the Manchester City camp. I have a good relationship with [Pep] Guardiola, with [Jurgen] Klopp.
“For me, it’s just trying to do what I have to do as a professional. I didn’t want to talk to anyone from both sides just in case they would be asking me this [for a favour].”
The Newcastle boss also took the opportunity to address his contract situation, with the three-year deal he signed in 2016 up at the end of the season and no extension agreed.
But after cagey comments on his future over recent weeks, Benitez was more open on Friday.
“I was talking to [chief executive] Lee Charnley this week. We will let you know as soon as we have more news,” he said. “At the moment, it’s just that we have had another talk and we will continue talking.”
Benitez confirmed that the discussions had been positive and added: “I know it is the last home game of the season, but still I am positive that we are talking.
“Everybody knows what my idea is. I would like to see this club growing and growing and going where I think they deserve to be.
“We will let you know – I understand that [the media] will ask me – but at least we know that we have been talking and we can move forward a little bit.”
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