Rafa Benitez is at St James’ Park to finalise the terms of his appointment as Newcastle United manager on a three-year deal after the club finally sacked Steve McClaren.
Sportsmail can reveal the Spaniard was travelling to the North East on Friday morning and is hoping to be in charge for Monday’s trip to Leicester.
The delay in appointing Benitez is due to the former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss refusing to meet until Newcastle had spoken with head coach McClaren and sacked him.
McCLAREN AT NEWCASTLE
But managing director Lee Charnley told McClaren of his fate on Friday morning and the news of his dismissal was confirmed at 11.30am.
Benitez’s unveiling could now happen as soon as Saturday and it is a move which is sure to be welcomed by supporters of the relegation-threatened club.
A statement confirming McClaren’s exit read:
‘After the defeat to Bournemouth on Saturday the club has spent some time considering its position and has today concluded that Steve McClaren’s employment with the club will end with immediate effect.
‘We acknowledge that reaching this decision has taken a number of days and that this has caused uncertainty for everyone involved, in particular for Steve and the players, for which we apologise.
‘However we felt that this time was necessary to ensure the right decisions were reached with the best interests of the club at heart.’
Charnley added: ‘I would like to thank Steve personally for his services to Newcastle United. He is a man of integrity and class and he has conducted himself with great dignity during this difficult time.
‘Steve worked tirelessly to try and bring success to Newcastle United. He has the utmost respect of all the players, staff and management and he leaves with our very best wishes and sincere thanks.
‘We feel that a change is now needed in order to give the club the best possible chance of securing its Premier League future.
‘A further announcement on a successor to Steve will be made in due course.’
Sportsmail revealed on Tuesday that Benitez was on a shortlist of one to replace McClaren. Talks had begun earlier in the day and continued throughout the week, with both parties indicating a willingness to get the deal done before the weekend.
Benitez will be confirmed as manager as opposed to head coach and will have more control over transfers than his predecessors.
His first home game will be the Tyne-Wear derby against Sunderland a week on Sunday.