By Wayne Veysey

26th Oct, 2021 | 8:00am

Sources: Newcastle line up new Benitez move after surprise twist

Newcastle United have not given up all hope of luring Rafael Benitez into a sensational return, Football Insider understands.

The Spaniard, 61, has long been the favoured choice of the Saudi-led regime to take over as manager and that remains the case nearly a week into their search for a Steve Bruce replacement.

A Newcastle source has told Football Insider there is an inkling of hope Benitez could be persuaded to leave Everton even though he has publicly ruled it out.

“Benitez is and always has been first choice to take over,” the source explained, referring to how the former Toon manager was lined up last year before the takeover talks collapsed at the eleventh hour.

Another with knowledge of the Spaniard’s situation suggested the bigger task was “prising Benitez from the Wirral rather than Everton”.

That is in reference to his family home in the Merseyside suburbs, which remained his main base even during his managerial stints at Newcastle and in China.

Subscribe to Football Insider TV now

Newcastle’s other leading targets were Brendan Rodgers and Steven Gerrard, both of whom are well established at their respective clubs.

Rodgers is now unlikely to be lured from Leicester City but Rangers boss Gerrard remains a realistic target for the Saudi-backed public investment fund (PiF).

Former Roma boss Paulo Fonseca has been sounded out by Newcastle, but he is not believed to be as close to landing the post as some reports were suggesting last week.

Other major European names are being strongly pushed by agents, including ex-Borussia Dortmund boss Lucien Favre, but they are not close at this stage, either.

Newcastle want to be certain Benitez is a non-starter before abandoning the pursuit completely.

The Champions League winner was appointed Everton manager in early July to a chorus of fury from a significant section of the club’s fanbase unhappy with his Liverpool connections.

But the Spaniard has won over many sceptics by overseeing a strong start to the season, although last weekend’s surprise 5-2 home defeat to Watford has offered a glimmer of light to Newcastle.

In other news, Kieran Maguire reveals Newcastle United could be about to take “extraordinary £1billion” gamble.