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Newcastle target appointment ahead of pre-season friendlies

Newcastle hope to have Rafael Benitez’s replacement in post before they head for China later this month.

The 59-year-old Spaniard officially left the club at midnight on Sunday after talks over a contract extension ultimately failed to reach a successful conclusion, much to the fury of fans who had taken the former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss to their hearts during his three-year stay on Tyneside.

PA understands the club’s hierarchy discussed the way forward over the weekend and in an ideal world, would like to have a new manager on board before the players set off for the Premier League Asia Trophy, which gets under way in Nanjing on July 17 and continues in Shanghai three days later.

Newcastle Under-23's coach Neil Redfearn could have a role to play until a new first team manager is appointed

Newcastle Under-23’s coach Neil Redfearn could have a role to play until a new first team manager is appointed (Richard Sellers/PA)

The tournament, which also involves English champions Manchester City, Wolves and West Ham, is a high-profile event and club officials are conscious of the image that would be presented should the Magpies party touch down in China without a manager.

As it stands, those players who have not been involved in international matches since the end of the domestic season are due back for pre-season training later this week with only newly-appointed under-23s boss Neil Redfearn, academy head of coaching Ben Dawson and goalkeeping coach Simon Smith awaiting them.

Newcastle are keen to move swiftly if they can, although their ability to do so could be dictated to an extent by whether or not their targets are currently in work and the negotiation that might entail, while the ongoing uncertainty over the club’s ownership is further complicating matters for managing director Lee Charnley.

A series of potential candidates have been linked with the job, although Nice’s Patrick Vieira has become the latest to distance himself from it.

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Speaking at a press conference after welcoming his players back for pre-season training, the former Arsenal midfielder said: “I’m at Nice for the long run. I do not intend to go elsewhere.

“I have always felt good here and with the people around me. I do not see myself anywhere else than OGC Nice.”

Vieira’s comments came hours after Benitez had insisted he wanted to stay, but had been unable to persuade owner Mike Ashley to back his vision for the future.

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In an open letter to fans, he said: “I wanted to stay, but I didn’t just want to sign an extended contract, I wanted to be part of a project.

“Unfortunately it became increasingly clear to me that those at the top of the club did not share the same vision.”