Benitez reminds Mike Ashley of his Newcastle responsibilities

Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez has warned owner Mike Ashley he may need to loosen the purse strings in January if he is to protect his investment in the club.

Ashley was photographed leaving the same North London restaurant as prospective buyer Amanda Staveley on Wednesday evening, sparking fresh hope of a breakthrough in Ashley’s bid to find a buyer.

However, the sportswear magnate’s hopes of completing a sale by Christmas look increasingly forlorn, and that could mean he will still be in charge for a transfer window which may have a major say in the Magpies’ short-term destiny.

Asked about the likelihood of Ashley releasing funds, Benitez said: “I think he’s a businessman. A businessman will have a clear idea about what he needs to do with his business to improve his business and then it will be much better.

“I think he wants to win because it’s good for him, so he will try to do that.

“It is very simple. You have to be sure that your team is strong enough to stay in the Premier League.”

Asked further if he expected money to be available, the Spaniard replied: “I hope so.”

Benitez cut a frustrated figure during the summer window when the signing he had hoped for did not materialised despite his belief that there was cash available.

The Magpies’ recent difficulties – they have lost five of their last six league games heading into Saturday’s home clash with Leicester – have served to further highlight the inadequacies within a squad of players he nevertheless believes are giving their all.

Benitez said: “That has been my message from the beginning of the season. We have a very good group of players who are working very hard, but always you need players and you have to adjust things, because normally you can see if something is wrong then it is now that you can fix things.

“The further away from relegation, the more valuable the club is. I think it’s obvious that we have some positions that we have to reinforce.”