Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has moved to head off any approaches to the club from West Ham for Rafa Benitez’s services.

The head of United and Sports Direct makes very few statements but has declared:  “I would like to thank Rafa Benitez for his magnificent achievement this season.

I would also like to applaud the players, led fantastically by the captain Jamaal Lascelles.

“On many occasions throughout the season they have been described as a championship side, which I personally consider to be derogatory.

“Rafa, as always, has my full support, and contrary to some media reports that portray me as a pantomime villain, I will continue to ensure that every penny generated by the club is available to him. I hope very much that Rafa will remain at Newcastle United.

“Finally, I would like to thank the fans for their unrivalled support of Rafa and the team throughout the season.”

Benitez had said after the game: “I still have one year left on my contract, so it is different.

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“Now, we have to make sure that we do the right things and are on the same page.

“The fans have ambitions and we have ambitions, and we have to know if everybody has the same feelings too.

“The potential is there. It is easy to see what we have, now we need to do something more and be a little bit better.”