Rafa Benitez demands Newcastle sort his future out before end of season with talks over one-year extension dragging on

Talks about extending the remaining 12 months on his three-year deal have been ongoing for weeks.

But Benitez, 58, wants assurances from owner Mike Ashley about significant transfer deals this summer before he puts pen to paper.

The Toon boss missed out on targets last year having led the club back to the Premier League — and he is determined to avoid a repeat.

Benitez said: “I need clarity before the summer… as soon as possible.

“It’s very clear. Everybody, the fans, they have the same feeling, and it’s something that we need to clarify. I need the club to do the right things. To clarify our ambitions and go for that.”

Benitez is only too aware of the challenge given the club’s record transfer signing is still Michael Owen, who cost £16.8million THIRTEEN YEARS ago.

Even Watford, not known for splashing out big transfer fees, paid more for striker Andre Gray last summer.

Benitez believes the Toon Army deserve better.

He said: “This is a massive club and we want to compete in the Premier League at a good level. What we have to do is the right things, that’s it.

“We cannot be thinking our position is seeing that we’re safe.

“We get 52,000 fans, 3,000 away fans here, 9,000 in the Championship last season. The level this club has to be competing in is the top eight of the Premier League.

“I’ve had three challenges since I came here. We tried to keep the team in the Premier League — we couldn’t do it.

“The second one was to go up in the first attempt in the Championship and we did it.

TOONERIFE EXCLUSIVE: Ayoze Perez reveals he was first inspired by Rafa Benitez as a seven-year-old kid in Tenerife

“And the third one was to stay up and we did it, so I’m quite happy overall with the challenges.

“But still I would like to compete for something, to make sure that we can come to places like Vicarage Road and win.”

Benitez, who has done a remarkable job with his team safe in tenth, dismissed suggestions that the players had been distracted by his contract stalemate.

Yet since assuring their Premier League future five games ago they seem to have lost focus, losing their last three.

Watford, who guaranteed their own survival, took the lead just two minutes in with Gray and Troy Deeney playing up front for the first time this season.

Will Hughes, who had moved out right to make way for the pairing, started the move before Abdoulaye Doucoure squared the ball and Roberto Pereyra tapped it into the net for his fifth goal of the season.

Gray, who has barely featured since Javi Gracia took over in January, had already shot straight at Martin Dubravka in the 26th minute when, seconds later, Pereyra crossed the ball to him.

The Magpies keeper flapped, punching it towards Gray, who headed it into the back of the net.

Watford had a chance for a third before the break when they were lucky to be handed a penalty.

Gray was already heading to the ground when Paul Dummett made contact — but referee Roger East pointed to the spot.

Deeney stepped up, only for Dubravka to save his shot and then do the same with the rebound.

Newcastle pulled one back in the 55th minute when Javier Manquillo crossed to Ayoze Perez and his right-footed effort sailed into the net.

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GAMES TO GO — Watford: Sunday Man Utd (a). Newcastle: Wednesday Tottenham (a), Sunday Chelsea (h).

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