Rafael Benitez says contract talks with Newcastle have NOT advanced and urges the club to decide whether to progress to the next level or not quickly

Benitez, who has been in charge since the back end of the 2015/16 season, is out of contract this summer.

He is adored by the Toon Army after getting the club back into the Premier League in the 2016/17 campaign and following their win over Southampton at St James’ Park, Newcastle went ten points clear of the relegation zone.

It means the club are all but safe and can start planning for life in the top flight next season and Newcastle fans will hope that owner Mike Ashley will spend money in the summer window.

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And speaking to talkSPORT’s Laura Woods and Stuart Pearce after the game, Benitez said Newcastle were now at a crossroads and had to decide if they wanted to go to the next level or continue to be a team that struggles to stay in the division.

Benitez said: “You can see the potential every single weekend.

“The city is behind the team, the stadium is full of fans every weekend and now we have to decide if we want to compete between 7th and 10th or between 15th and 17th.

“At the moment the wage bill is really really important, not just the transfer fees. If you want to attract good players with good quality you have to pay them good salaries because the other teams are doing that.

“The teams between 7th and 10th are spending £100million and they are spending money on players on £100,000 a week so we have to decide if we want to compete with them or not.

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“I’m not asking for anything. I want some balance between the money you can spend and pay in relation to the teams that compete.

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