By Russell Edge

20th Apr, 2018 | 2:35pm

Confirmed: Benitez desperate for Newcastle talks to commence, throws gauntlet down at Ashley

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez has confirmed that he is desperate for contract talks to commence as he looks to judge where the club’s ambitions lie.

The Magpies are on the verge of mathematically securing their Premier League safety this season, needing just one more point to put themselves out of reach of Southampton after the Saints’ 0-0 draw with Leicester City on Thursday evening.

Benitez himself had said that he would not undertake any negotiations until the club’s top flight position had been secured, and with that a near-certainty, he has confirmed he wants discussions to begin immediately.

However, he did not confirm he would be putting pen to paper, instead throwing the gauntlet down to owner Mike Ashley to match his own ambitions at St James’ Park before anything would be agreed.

As quoted by Sky Sports’ Keith Downie on his personal Twitter account, Benitez said: “My position now is to know the ideas of the club and find out if we share the same ambitions.

“I want talks as soon as possible but I also want to concentrate on beating Everton on Monday.

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“They know my idea and we need to match ideas to compete. My idea (ambition) is to be finishing in the top 8 and be competing for trophies and qualifying for Europe.”

Benitez’s current contract, which was signed in the summer of 2016, is set to expire at the end of next season.

Football Insider verdict

Benitez could not have made it any clearer as to what he wants to see from the club and it is now up to the top brass to ensure that they can convince the Spaniard they are all on the same page. If nothing else, that will mean some serious transfer spending and whether Ashley is willing to commit to that is a serious issue to address. On the other hand, he could be waiting to hear about the potential of a takeover in the summer, and if that is to go ahead, then it could well leave him waiting to discuss his plans with the new owners before putting pen to paper on a new deal. If nothing else, we know where Benitez stands – now it is up to the Magpies to match his ambitions.

In other Newcastle United news, the club are setting themselves up for disaster with their plans for a fan favourite.

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