Rafa Benitez has used his first column in new website The Athletic to rebut allegations made by Lee Charnley that he left Newcastle United to go to China for the money alone. Charnley, you will remember was described by an Employment Tribunal as “unreliable and evasive”. This isn’t the first time Mike Ashley has been described as untrustworthy. No less a figure than Kevin Keegan has described there being no trust between himself Ashley and others who work for him. Ashley was found to have lied to the media and supporters.

This is what Rafa had to say:

 ‘I tried to do my best every day, even staying when we went down to the Championship and saying no to other offers — bigger offers than the one I recently accepted with Dalian Yifang, by the way.  If I was only interested in moving “for money”, as Charnley stated, I could have done it much earlier.’ 

Newcastle’s board had a year to sort out my contract but, when we met after the end of last season, they didn’t make me an offer I could accept. They told me they didn’t want to invest in the academy or the training ground — if they like, I can explain the reason why Mike Ashley refused to do that. 

‘Their idea of a project was a policy of signing players under 24 and, in my opinion, the budget available was not enough to compete for the top 10.

‘After that meeting, I knew they would not come back with a serious offer and, when it arrived, 19 days later, it was for the same salary as three years earlier and with less control over signings. 

‘Charnley’s comments in the programme about having a deal agreed for Joelinton in February explains a lot that I couldn’t understand at that time. After three years of unfulfilled promises, I didn’t trust them.’

This raises some key points:

Who has signed Joelinton? Is it a Lee Charnley signing and if so what skills and experience does he to sign players for Newcastle United? Further, why has United paid £40m for a player Rafa didn’t feel was worth that money? Why have they paid that fee when no other club was interested in signing him? Why was the fee so high for a player who scored only 8 goals in the Bundesliga last season?

Does that signing – the manner in how it was completed (no football person involved in it apparently beyond the largely unknown Steve Nicksen, Head of Recruitment) make any sense? The fee in particular appears to be exorbitant given what we know. Still, how Joelinton progresses will say much about Lee Charnley.

There is a line in the quotes above which will interest those watching Ashley and his intentions towards United and that is about what Benitez hints regards a specific reason why Ashley has refused to invest in the training ground or academy. What is that reason? Those who live on Tyneside will know the training ground is in Benton, a desirable suburb of the city which has seen a lot of housing development lately.

Does Ashley have plans to sell the training ground and pocket the money? This is not a conspiracy theory given this is exactly what Ashley has done with the lease on the land at Strawberry Place and entirely profited from what was once an asset of the club.

I hasten to add this is entirely speculative on my part.

Maybe we’d be able to ask Charnley that question if the fans Forum ever met and was indeed anywhere near being fit for purpose.

The full interview is here:

People in Newcastle have been talking about my decision to move to China without knowing what happened behind the scenes during my three years at St James’ Park.

I haven’t wanted to say too much about that — I’ve encouraged supporters to get behind Steve Bruce and his new team — but I’ve been made aware of what Lee Charnley, Newcastle’s managing director, claimed in the club’s match programme last weekend and I think it’s important I address that.

I tried to do my best every day, even staying when we went down to the Championship and saying no to other offers — bigger offers than the one I recently accepted with Dalian Yifang, by the way. If I was only interested in moving “for money”, as Charnley stated, I could have done it much earlier.

Over my long career, and especially in my time at Newcastle, I’ve always shown commitment to my club, its city and its community and I’ve done it with professionalism and honesty.

Newcastle’s board had a year to sort out my contract but, when we met after the end of last season, they didn’t make me an offer I could accept. They told me they didn’t want to invest in the academy or the training ground — if they like, I can explain the reason why Mike Ashley refused to do that. Their idea of a project was a policy of signing players under 24 and, in my opinion, the budget available was not enough to compete for the top 10.

After that meeting, I knew they would not come back with a serious offer and, when it arrived, 19 days later, it was for the same salary as three years earlier and with less control over signings. Charnley’s comments in the programme about having a deal agreed for Joelinton in February explains a lot that I couldn’t understand at that time.

After three years of unfulfilled promises, I didn’t trust them.

When we finished 10th in the Premier League in our first season back, all players and staff were paid a bonus — aside from my coaching team. That felt like a punishment for me not signing an extension.

So, by the end, I knew there would not be a proper offer and they knew I was not signing.

I couldn’t explain that in public because I was not allowed to talk to the press without their permission, so I was waiting until late June, like every fan, hoping there would be good news about Newcastle’s prospective takeover.

On Sunday morning, I switched on my television in Dalian and there was a documentary about Alan Shearer being shown. Can you believe that? It’s true.

I saw joy in the faces of Newcastle fans after every goal. I didn’t need the reminder, because I was there so recently, there with all my heart, but it made me think again about that history and potential. And it made me consider something else: what would an 18-year-old Newcastle supporter think about his club now?’