West Ham United have labelled Rafa Benitez as their priority target to replace David Moyes this summer, and the Spaniard could leave Newcastle United without being forced to pay any compensation despite still being under contract on Tyneside, according to reports.
The Evening Standard claims that the 58-year-old Spaniard has come to the end of his tether with the St James’ Park hierarchy but wants to remain in the Premier League.
Following the departure of Moyes at the London Stadium earlier in the week, the Hammers have placed the former Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid coach at the top of their wanted list; similarly to how they did in 2013 before the Madrid-born manager received an offer from Los Blancos.
It was claimed that should Benitez opt to leave Newcastle this summer, £6m – one year’s salary – will be owed to Mike Ashley in compensation; however, according to the Daily Mail, the experienced tactician may be able to sidestep that fee.
The report states that his lawyers believe their client could evade his severance penalty as they think he has a case for constructive dismissal – similarly to Kevin Keegan in 2008.
That is because they will argue owner Ashley has failed to keep his promises made to the 58-year-old during his tenure at St James’ Park and could state he was left with no choice but to walk away from his current deal, which has 12 months left to run.
However, the likelihood of any club, including West Ham, not willing to pay the £6m owed to speed up the process is minimal, although considering those discussions have been held, it highlights Benitez’s mindset.
The Hammer have insisted amid the speculation that they aim to appoint a manager in the next seven days, with former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini also in talks.
“West Ham United would like to assure supporters that the board are extremely confident of appointing a high-calibre first-team manager, who has a proven record both in the Premier League and European football,” a club statement read.
“The club expect to make an announcement within the next seven days, following a thorough and strategic process that has identified the best possible candidate.”
Joint-chairman David Sullivan added: “This is an exciting time for our football club. We are preparing to appoint a manager who has a proven record of success at the highest level of the game.”