Rafael Benitez has expressed disquiet over Newcastle’s transfer activity, admitting he is unhappy that the club are “looking to just survive every year”.
Benitez’s relationship with owner Mike Ashley will come under further scrutiny after the Spaniard’s comments less than a week before the start of the new Premier League season.
The Newcastle manager said he and his backroom team have been ready to strike in the summer transfer window for months.
“I have a lot of confidence in this group of players but they (the club) know we have to do something if we want to improve the competition between players,” Benitez said at a press conference following the 1-0 pre-season home defeat to Augsburg on Saturday.
“If you are asking me if it is ideal, I would say no, because the way that I like to work is doing things early.
“But we can’t do that at the moment. It’s just trying to improve as much as we can.”
Benitez has made five summer signings, with Japan striker Yoshinori Muto joining from Bundesliga club Mainz this week for a fee in the region of £10million.
Switzerland defender Fabian Schar and South Korean midfielder Ki Sung-yueng have also arrived, while Chelsea midfielder Kenedy has returned on a season-long loan deal after impressing during a six-month spell last campaign.
Goalkeeper Martin Dubravka has also signed a permanent contract following a successful six-month loan spell.
But Benitez clearly feels more must be done, adding: “I am not happy we are looking to just survive every year.
“When I decided to stay here it was because it was a project.
“Everyone knows that we can’t compete against Man City or Man United, but we can do things in the right way.
“Maybe we can be more competitive or closer to European positions, maybe we could challenge for a trophy. That was the idea.
“Then we finished 10th and credit to our players, but I still thought we could do something more to be closer.
“It’s not the case. We’ll see where we are and we will fight until the last minute, trying to improve the squad first then after that the team.”
Ashley was not present at St James’ Park on Saturday to see Newcastle lose to Michael Gregoritsch’s second-half header.
But Benitez remains hopeful that Newcastle can do further business before Thursday’s transfer deadline and their season-opener at home to Tottenham two days later.
“I was talking with Lee Charnley (managing director) before the game and I’ll maybe see him after the game,” Benitez said.
“I’m not saying we’re not working, but the point is we were ready to go and we knew what we wanted to do.
“We have won trophies everywhere and we will try to do something similar here.
“At the moment we have to make sure we have to improve the squad and see after that.
“I always have confidence and belief we’ll do what we need to do.”