Rafael Benitez claimed it would take a ‘miracle’ for Newcastle to stay in the Premier League this season.
Fortunately for the Magpies, Benitez is a specialist when it comes to miracles on the football pitch and they took a giant step towards safety with a 1-0 win at Leicester last Friday.
They are ten points clear of 18th spot with four matches left and while it’s still mathematically possible they could go down, it looks like Newcastle will be playing in the top flight next season.
However, there are still problems in the north east.
Owner Mike Ashley is hated by the Newcastle faithful and it looks like he’s no closer to selling the club.
Meanwhile Benitez, who is adored by the fans, is out of contract this summer and is not enthusiastic about signing a new deal while Ashley is still running the show upstairs.
Newcastle therefore may have to think about life without Benitez which would worry anyone connected with the club.
But if the Spaniard leaves he surely won’t have a shortage of options due to the brilliant job he’s done at Newcastle by keeping them in the Premier League for two straight seasons on a minuscule budget.
Below you can see places that could be open to Benitez if he walks away from St James’ Park this summer.
Since Brendan Rodgers suddenly left for Leicester, Celtic have been looking for a new manager to take over full-time.
Interim boss Neil Lennon, who’s managed the Hoops before, is the odds-on favourite to take over but Benitez is surprisingly in contention for the job.
Celtic are heavy favourites to win the league before a ball is even kicked but they really struggle on the European stage and Benitez, who won the Europa League with Chelsea and Valencia and the Champions League with Liverpool, could be the one to take them to the next level.
However, former Celtic man Davie Provan suggested the club ‘would need chloroform’ to get the Spaniard to Parkhead.
Benitez is good enough to manage a top six club but the only job among those teams that looks like becoming available soon is Chelsea, as manager Maurizio Sarri has struggled in his first season in English football.
There’s not a lot of appeal to go to Stamford Bridge due to the club’s ban on signing players for the next two transfer windows.
But Benitez has experience with little or no budget at Newcastle and if he were to step in it would probably be on a short-term contract like his first spell at the club.
He did a pretty good job then – helping Chelsea finish third in the 2012/13 season and winning the Europa League – although he could be put off by the Chelsea faithful being ungrateful for his work even though he saved their season.
Benitez has also shown in the past that he doesn’t mind going down to the Championship as he took over Newcastle shortly before they were relegated to the second tier in the 2015/16 season.
Fulham are heading straight back down although they showed plenty of ambition by signing 15 players since winning promotion.
Darren Lewis of the Daily Mirror told talkSPORT Craven Cottage could be a good place for Benitez to go next if Fulham don’t fancy hiring caretaker Scott Parker on a permanent basis.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Chris Hughton’s job at Brighton is not under threat for now but Brighton’s dreadful form during the second half of the season is very worrying.
They’ve won just two of their last twelve matches in the league and have been sucked into a relegation battle having struggled to juggle an FA Cup run which saw them lose in the semi-finals to Manchester City.
Whether they stay up or go down, Brighton’s top brass may feel it’s time for a change and Benitez would be a massive coup for them and they’d surely back him in the transfer market more than Ashley has.
There are options abroad for Benitez too.
The Italian side, who are currently fifth in Serie A, have Claudio Ranieri in charge until the end of the season but will be after a new manager to take charge full-time and help restore them as a threat in Europe.
Benitez is one of the best in the business for that whether it’s Champions League or Europa League and also has experience in Italy with Napoli and Inter Milan, even if they weren’t his most successful managerial spells.
And if there’s one club that’s desperate to win the Champions League, it’s Paris Saint-Germain.
They’ve got Ligue 1 sorted but the real obsession at that club is winning Europe’s top prize.
Current manager Thomas Tuchel hasn’t delivered that following PSG’s last-16 loss to Manchester United and the German has been forced to deny rumours of a fallout with the powers that be at the club.
Another option in Italy for Benitez could be AC Milan as current manager Gennaro Gattuso’s future has been a constant source of speculation.
Milan are fourth in Serie A so are on track to make next season’s Champions League but they have struggled to make an impact on the European stage in recent seasons and Benitez could restore those glory days.
However, like his days at Chelsea, Benitez could be unpopular with the Milan fans as he’s beaten them in big games when in charge of Liverpool, even though he was just doing his job!
If Benitez fancies a big payday then there are likely to be options available for him in China, Russia or even the USA.
However, it should be noted that his family still live in Liverpool so he’d like to stay close to home.
It’s clear Benitez has developed a close bond with the Toon Army as well despite all the chaos at Newcastle so he could even extend his stay at the club despite his dislike for his boss.