Benitez hopes latest takeover talk does not affect Newcastle players

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Rafael Benitez is hoping the latest whirl of takeover speculation will not distract his Newcastle players.

Just as it did 12 months ago, Tyneside will approach Christmas bathed in uncertainty following owner Mike Ashley’s revelation on Monday evening that his 14-month quest to finally sell the club he has owned for 11 and and half fractious years could come to fruition within weeks.

Fans who have heard it all before could be forgiven for greeting the latest news with scepticism less than a year after Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners failed to prise the Magpies from Ashley’s grasp.

But manager Benitez will carry on regardless in the hope that all the apparent activity behind the scenes does not coincide with the kind of form which saw his side go nine Premier League games without a win at a similar point last season as Staveley launched her ultimately unsuccessful bid.

Benitez said: “I will say that I hope it will not be a distraction. Why? Because the players, they know that they have to perform, that’s it.

“For us, we have experience of this. We are in the same situation that we were in before. When we say, ‘business as usual’, it’s because we know that it will not change our plans.

“Our plans are to look for the (transfer) targets. Fine. We are looking for the targets, so it depends who is there and who is available.

“But for me, we carry on and thinking that Mike will be there, and we have to choose the right players for us. That’s it.”

Benitez’s own future remains uncertain with his contract due to expire at the end of the season and an extension yet to be agreed amid his concerns over the club’s future direction, something which could depend heavily on a change of ownership.

However, as he prepared his players for Wednesday night’s Premier League trip to Everton and the business of bouncing back from a 3-0 home defeat by West Ham, he was concentrating purely on football and was not so sure last year’s slump was caused by all the speculation.

He said: “I don’t think that players who have been here six months or one year see the big picture. They just concentrate on doing their jobs, that’s it.

“The foreign players, half of them, I’m sure, are not watching the TV – and probably didn’t even know Mike did an interview.”

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