Rafael Benitez: Newcastle will target Spaniard if Steve McClaren is replaced

By Ian DennisBBC Radio 5 live senior football reporter
Rafael Benitez
Rafael Benitez has previously managed Premier League clubs Liverpool and Chelsea

Former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez will be Newcastle's preferred choice as manager if they replace Steve McClaren.

McClaren is still in charge after talks with managing director Lee Charnley.

The 54-year-old, whose side are 19th in the Premier League, has taken training all week and spoke to Charnley by phone on Wednesday after a planned face-to-face meeting failed to take place.

His future remains unclear but he is expected to take training on Thursday before Monday's game at Leicester.

The Magpies are in danger of a second relegation in seven years after five defeats in six league games, including Saturday's 3-1 loss to Bournemouth.

Spaniard Benitez was sacked as manager of Real Madrid in January after only seven months in charge of the La Liga side.

The 55-year-old spent six years in charge of Liverpool, winning the 2004-05 Champions League, and had an interim spell with Chelsea, with whom he won the Europa League in 2012-13.

Steve McClaren
Steve McClaren (right) has won only six of 28 Premier League games at Newcastle

Newcastle board members Charnley, chief scout Graham Carr and club ambassador Bob Moncur met away from Tyneside on Monday to discuss possible ways forward with 10 games of the season remaining.

However, there has been no public comment from the club in the days since, despite the speculation over McClaren's position.

On Wednesday, the former England manager was pictured smiling as he left the club's training ground.

McClaren took over in the summer after leaving Championship side Derby, but has only won six of his 28 top-flight matches in charge.

Former club owner Sir John Hall claimed he should be sacked, while Alan Shearer - Newcastle's record goalscorer - has described the club as a "mess from top to bottom".

The NUFC Fans' Forum - a representative body of supporters' groups - has called for action to be taken in an open letter to the club's hierarchy.

Newcastle's remaining Premier League fixtures
14 March: Leicester (A)23 April: Liverpool (A)
20 March: Sunderland (H)30 April: Crystal Palace (H)
2 April: Norwich (A)7 May: Aston Villa (A)
9 April: Southampton (A)15 May: Tottenham (H)
16 April: Swansea (H)TBA: Man City (H)

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