Newcastle should be a force in European football - their current plight is a tragic tale for all who love the game
Newcastle United should not be dipping through the Championship's scrapheap of managers
Just as Newcastle fans had feared, as well as many neutrals who sympathise with their plight under Mike Ashley's ownership, Rafa Benitez has been allowed to walk away.
The Champions League winner who stepped up at their time of need, stuck with them after going down, brought them back up and led them to Premier League survival, will depart when his contract expires on June 30th after the Magpies' hierarchy failed to convince him of their ambitions.
It is another absurd twist in the sorry tale of Newcastle's recent history, and an insult to a passionate and loyal fan base who deserve so much better.
Over the past decade, Newcastle have been relegated and promoted twice. In the minds of teenage and twenty-something supporters, they will be considered a yo-yo team, a far cry from their days as a team who regularly qualified for European competition - which is where they belong.
Even as recently as the 2011/12 season they finished fifth. And that was under Alan Pardew. That they have been allowed to slide down the table due to a lack of investment and ambition is a crying shame - not just to locals but to the English game that is stronger when Newcastle are a force.
This is a club with an average attendance of over 50,000. Over the course of the past five years (one of which was spent in the Championship), they have drawn the 13th biggest attendance across Europe - more than Juventus, Celtic, AC Milan, PSG - even Liverpool. The passion of their fans is unquestionable, the potential of the club is huge - but Rafa's departure is a perfect exemplification of how the club has been neglected.
Possible replacements include Garry Monk - a Championship manager who underachieved at Middlesbrough, and was recently sacked by Birmingham City. A club of Newcastle's size should not be rummaging through the Championship scrapheap to find a manager who will feel fortunate to be in a job and won't rock the boat.
On the flip side, José Mourinho has also been linked with a move to Tyneside. As fanciful as that may be, it demonstrates the pull that Newcastle still command. Were a different regime in charge at St James' Park, there may even have been a chance of appointing Mourinho - after all, Rafa's last job before Newcastle was at Real Madrid.
All things considered, it beggars belief that the club still has not been taken over by a more ambitious owner.
Benitez saw the potential in Newcastle and stuck by the club through thick and thin despite being at odds with Ashley's outlook. The failure to renew Benitez's contract - with the club issuing a pithy 136-word statement confirming his departure - will go down as one of the worst mistakes in Premier League history. The real tragedy is that it did not come as a surprise.