By North-east correspondent Harry Sykes

Newcastle have revealed they are closing in on the appointment of a new assistant for Rafael Benitez.

The club confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that they are on the lookout for a new first team coach after announcing that Fabio Pecchia had left to become manager of Italian side Hellas Verona.

Newcastle said “good progress” was being made in the search for Benitez’s new number two and an announcement would be made within days.

Pecchia joined Benitez’s backroom staff at Napoli and then followed him to Real Madrid last summer and, once again, when the Spaniard was appointed at St James’ Park in March.

Benitez praised his former colleague following his departure to the Serie B side on a one-year deal.

“I would like to congratulate Fabio Pecchia who, until now, has been my ‘assistant ‘ in my recent managerial appointments at Napoli, Real Madrid and Newcastle United,” Benitez said in a statement on his own website.

“Fabio Pecchia has just accepted an offer from Hellas Verona and leaves us to return to Italy.

“To the football league we both fondly know as ‘Calcio’, he returns to head up an interesting and exciting project in Hellas Verona.

“First, I am sad to see him depart as he has been an excellent professional from the first day and until the last in the years we have worked together.

“Second and most importantly, I am pleased because he been considered for this new position, he leaves to face these new and exciting challenges, both personally and professionally.

“I wish you all the best, good luck and I can only say thank you for everything, Fabio.”

Meanwhile, Newcastle also sent their best wishes to Pecchia following his exit.

A club statement said: “The club would like to thank Fabio for his services to Newcastle during his time with the Magpies, and recognises that this is a fantastic opportunity for him to further his career.

“Good progress is being made with regard to replacing Pecchia, and a further announcement will be made in the coming days.”

In other Newcastle news, Georginio Wijnaldum has given an update on his plans for next season following the team’s relegation to the Championship.