By Russell Edge

25th Apr, 2017 | 6:29pm

Benitez: I stayed at Newcastle for these two reasons, compares promotion to past success

By Russell Edge

Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez has compared the Magpies’ promotion with his successes at Liverpool and said he stayed because of the size of the club and the passion of the fans.

The Tyneside club returned to the top flight at the first time of asking with a 4-1 victory over Preston North End, with manager Benitez taking plenty of plaudits for working his magic at St James’ Park.

The Magpies have become only the second team in seven seasons to secure automatic promotion the season after relegation, with current Premier League side Burnley managing the feat last season.

Benitez arrived at St James’ Park at the end of the 2015/16 season and although he was unable to prevent relegation, he remained in the North East to take Newcastle back to the peak of English football.

Despite their fall to the Championship, Benitez insists he was happy to remain at the club, saying that the the club as a project was too good to turn down.

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He told Spanish radio station Cadena SER: “I decided to stay for the size of this club and the affection of the people.

“It was an exciting project.”

The former Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid man compared the Magpies’ success with his time at Liverpool, where he won the Champions League and FA Cup, as well as being named UEFA manager of the year.

He also tasted European success during his time at Stamford Bridge, lifting the Europa League after beating Benfica in the final.

“We have achieved the promotion in a very difficult league,” said the 57-year-old.

“It’s like when we won with Liverpool, Chelsea, Valencia or when we were promoted with Tenerife or Extremadura.”

Newcastle fans will be hoping that Benitez remains at the helm next season, with the Spanish boss refusing to comment on his future plans with Daily Mail journalist Craig Hope.

In other Newcastle news, the Magpies have been installed as second favourites to sign a Premier League defender.

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