Newcastle hero says Rafael Benitez staying is best thing to happen to club since Sir Bobby Robson's arrival

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez applauds fans after the game

Nolberto Solano believes the Spanish boss' decision to remain at St. James' Park is as seminal a moment as Robson's appointment in 1999.

Nolberto Solano - Newcastle United

Former Newcastle United hero Nolberto Solano has talked up the importance of Rafael Benitez reportedly choosing to stay at St. James' Park, telling the Chronicle that the decision is the biggest day for the club since the appointment of Sir Bobby Robson.

Widespread reports on Wednesday have suggested that Benitez is on the verge of agreeing a long-term deal to stay with the Magpies after reviving their survival hopes from the ashes in the final weeks of the season.

Newcastle looked dead and buried when the Spaniard took over in March, but he transformed performance and results in the final weeks and led the club to a six-match unbeaten run to end the campaign.

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez

That was ultimately not quite enough to resurrect the North East club, but the former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss choosing to stay on is undoubtedly a huge coup for the relegated side.

In fact, former midfielder Solano believes that it is the single most important thing to happen to the club since they replaced a struggling Ruud Gullit with former England manager Robson in 1999, an appointment which turned the Magpies from bottom-half strugglers to Champions League contenders in just a few years at the start of the century.

The Peruvian, who played under Robson at St. James' Park and made over 300 appearances for the Magpies, told the Chronicle: "This is the biggest day at the club since Bobby Robson arrived, perhaps even bigger when you consider it is a world class manager coming into the Championship.

A statue of Sir Bobby Robson unveiled today

"It will be a shock to the rest of the world in football. There were many who expected him not to take it. It is really hard to understand for those outside why, but he has seen the club from the inside, and the supporters make it a huge club whatever division you are in.

"Once you feel the passion of the Geordies you become hooked. It has been a big factor for Rafa I believe. When 50,000 people chant your name for 90 minutes it’s a big thing."

Benitez's decision to stay with the club in the Championship is a huge coup for the Tynesiders, and has bred rising optimism that their future can be bright despite relegation.

The 56-year-old has never managed in the English second tier, but having had an almost immediate positive impact on the club, supporters will be cautiously hopeful for what next season may hold.

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez

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