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Telegraph News: Mike Ashley told Rafa Benitez about the Chinese take over

Mike Ashley, the Newcastle United owner, told manager Rafael Benítez that he had been approached by consortiums looking to buy the club when they met last month.

Telegraph Sport understands that conversations with investors are ongoing and that Ashley is more open to selling a share of the business, as he does not believe anyone is willing to match the £400 million asking price needed to complete a full takeover.

Ashley is still considering the various offers that have been made, but will want proof of funds before he enters into serious discussions and is wary of time wasters.

Telegraph Sport revealed last year that Chinese investors had shown an interest in buying the club and that has not gone away. Renewed attempts have been made since the club were promoted back to the Premier League in May and it has been enough to tempt Ashley to do some sort of deal.

A source close to the discussions said: “There has been interest from China for a long time now. It has not got very far in the past, but neither has it gone away.”

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Benítez is well aware of the situation and is said to be relaxed about the negotiations as he has been assured they will have no impact on his ability to sign players this summer.

In fact, if the additional investment is brought in by Ashley in the next few weeks, it could even boost his spending power over the next two transfer windows.

The fact that Ashley told Benítez about the interest at the end of last season, when he assured him he would be given the financial backing he needs to rebuild the squad this summer, suggests the sport shop billionaire is taking the approaches more seriously than before.

Ashley issued a statement three years ago insisting he would not sell “for any price”. He added that he would only part company with a club he bought for around £180 million in 2007 if they won a major trophy or qualified for the Champions League.

However, the amount of interest shown in Newcastle – which has come from several foreign consortiums – has turned Ashey’s head.

In turn, Telegraph Sport understands he would be happy to share the responsibility of running the club, in return for the sort of significant investment that would greatly strengthen their player recruitment power.

telegraph.co.uk

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