Newcastle have opened preliminary contact with Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez over potentially succeeding Rafa Benitez at St James’ Park, according to the Northern Echo.
Mike Ashley and Managing Director Lee Charnley are understood to have opened an informal line of contact with the 45-year-old and his representatives to sound out any interest in a return to domestic management, having taken up his Red Devils duties in 2016 following his dismissal at Everton.
Martinez is thought to be one of Ashley and Charnley’s leading candidates as they search for Benitez’s replacement, but are yet to make a formal approach to the Belgian Football Association.
A move is highly anticipated, however, but United executives face a huge hurdle if they are to convince Martinez to depart Belgium ahead of next summer’s Euro 2020 Championship, as the Spanish head coach is desperate to lead Belgium into the tournament as they will be one of the favourites to win the competition.
But Ashley and Charnley have made it clear that any manager who takes up the St James’ Park hot seat will not be allowed to share responsibilities with another position, which would mean Martinez giving up his desires to join the Magpies this summer.
Ashley was thought to have given Benitez the green light to step into the vacant Spain managers position for last summer’s World Cup following Julen Lopetegui’s late sacking, but that would have been on a purely temporary basis.
Martinez may yet be open to a return to domestic management, however, as the former Wigan, Swansea, and Motherwell midfielder is keen to secure a return to the Premier League one day.
During his domestic management period with Swansea, Wigan, and Everton, Martinez managed to reach the Europa League Round of 16 with the Toffees to add to his FA Cup triumph with the Latics in 2013, while guiding the Swans out of League One as Champions in 2008 and establishing the Welsh outfit as a mid-table team in the second-tier.
Further success with Belgium – with whom he has won 28 of his 37 games in charge – has seen the 45-year-old improve his career points-per-game average to 1.71, having been 1.48ppg at the time of his dismissal at Goodison Park.