Rafael Benitez insists he can fully understand why Newcastle are attracting interest from potential buyers having seen the club’s potential for himself.
Andrew Henderson, the lawyer tasked with selling the business after owner Mike Ashley formally put it on the market earlier this week, has received a series of credible enquiries to add to a group of interested parties who had already signed non-disclosure agreements, one of them understood to be from Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners.
Benitez has distanced himself from the frenzy of speculation which has followed Monday’s announcement, preferring instead to concentrate on Saturday’s Premier League clash with Crystal Palace at St James’ Park.
However, the Spaniard is aware of how big a club which twice finished as runners-up in the 1990s and recorded three successive top-five finishes under Sir Bobby Robson during the following decade could be.
Benitez said: “It’s one of the top sides in England if you put everything together. The question is, is it reaching its level? Obviously, no.
“Can we do it? I think so.”
Ashley insists he will only sell to a buyer who can invest more heavily in the squad that he has been able to, and while Benitez insists hard cash is not the only requirement, he has a vision for a brighter future.
Asked at what level the club should be, he replied: “A higher level than we are at the moment. I think we can do better.
“This club has to be in the top 10. I don’t say that because of the fans or the city, it’s because you can see when you compare to other clubs you can see the potential is there.”
Takeover talk has dominated Tyneside in recent days, but Benitez is adamant all that concerns him is the quest for another three points against Palace to build upon the club’s solid start to the campaign, which currently has it sitting in ninth place.
He said: “I know that, reading the press in the last few days, it’s really important for everyone here. But I will not change my approach for this game and I will not change my approach for the next few games.”
The game will see two former Liverpool bosses, Benitez and Roy Hodgson, go head-to head with the former insisting a war of words between the pair, during which he accused Hodgson of not being able to see “a priest on a mountain of sugar”, stemmed from misinformation.
He said: “It’s all water under the bridge and I’ve talked with him face-to-face.”