Sack face: Rafa Benitez has been dismissed as Real Madrid manager

By North-east correspondent Harry Sykes

Newcastle have announced that Mikel Antia has been appointed to Rafael Benitez’s backroom staff.

The 43-year-old former Real Madrid player has been added to the manager’s coaching team following the departure of Fabio Pecchia.

The club confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that Pecchia had left to become manager of Italian Serie B side Hellas Verona.

Just 24 hours later it was announced on the official Newcastle website that Spaniard Antia, 43, has arrived from the Aspire Academy in Qatar where he has been part of the coaching team tasked with developing young Qatari players.

Antia, who hails from San Sebastian in Spain, had spells as a player at the Real Madrid Academy where he played under Benitez for four seasons, before moving to Real Valladolid in La Liga, also with Benitez. He later moved on to play for Celta Vigo and Real Sociedad.

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“I am delighted that Mikel is joining my staff,” Benitez told the Newcastle website on Thursday. “He is a very talented coach and I know he will add great expertise to my team.

“At the same time I am sad to see Fabio depart as he has been an excellent professional from the first day until the last in the years we have worked together.

“He leaves to face these new and exciting challenges, both personally and professionally. I wish him all the best and say thank you.”

The rest of Benitez’s coaching staff, consisting of Francisco de Míguel Moreno, Antonio Gómez Pérez, Ian Cathro and Simon Smith, will remain at St James’ Park.

Pecchia has joined Hellas Verona on a one-year deal. He had 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.

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