By Editor Wayne Veysey| Former Evening Standard, Press Association and Goal chief correspondent with 17 years experience of breaking big stories, including exclusives like this
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Rafael Benitez has agreed the terms of a three-year deal to become the new manager of Newcastle, the club have announced.
The former Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid boss settled the terms of a £4million-a-year contract worth £12million during discussions with the club at St James’ Park on Friday.
Benitez was pictured arriving and then leaving the stadium on Friday afternoon after Newcastle finally put Steve McClaren out of his misery by sacking him earlier in the day.
Newcastle then released a statement to confirm that Benitez had officially been appointed.
The Spaniard said: “I have the pleasure to confirm I have committed to a legendary English club, with the massive challenge of remaining part of the Premier League.
“It will be a challenge not just for me and my staff but for the players, the Club and the fans.
“All of us must push together in the same direction and with the same target in mind. This is the reason why I’m going to ask for your total support to successfully complete this task.
“Personally, it means my return to the Premier League, closer to my home and my family. I can’t be happier.”
McClaren was given the boot in the wake of a catastrophic run of results that has left the club second from bottom of the Premier League.
Benitez has now been given the task of saving Newcastle from relegation to the Championship with 10 matches of the season remaining.
He will in the dug-out for the trip to Premier League leaders Leicester on Monday night, and will then have a further nine matches to keep the Magpies in the top flight.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) March 11, 2016
Newcastle chiefs are hopeful that by acting now they can stem the crisis that has engulfed the club in the wake of the weekend 3-1 home defeat to Bournemouth.
Benitez has the calibre and track record to arrest the decline and get the best out of an underperforming squad that is rated as one of the best in the second half of the Premier League table.
He has an agreement in principle to sign a three-year contract, although it is not known if it will include a clause that he leaves if the club are demoted to the Championship.
Newcastle hesitated over confirming McClaren’s exit and in a statement released on the club’s official website on Friday, they said sorry for their inaction.
The statement read: “We acknowledge that reaching this decision has taken a number of days and that this has caused uncertainty for everyone involved, in particular for Steve and the players, for which we apologise.
“However, we felt that this time was necessary to ensure the right decisions were reached with the best interests of the club at heart.”