“Every penny the club generates, he can have, but it won’t generate enough," said Ashley.

"It’s Newcastle United. It doesn’t have a £40million-a-year stadium naming rights deal, it doesn’t.

"So I don’t want the fans to watch this interview and think ‘that’s great, Rafa’s getting £150million in the morning’. He’s not.

"With (United managing director) Lee Charnley’s help – and Lee Charnley answers to Rafa, not the other way around, so we’re crystal clear – Rafa makes all the final decisions on the players out and the players in, but he has to do it with the money the club has.

“If you say to me ‘I’m wealthy’. Well, OK. In theory I’m a whatever, a billionaire, maybe even a multi-billionaire, but in reality my wealth is in Sports Direct shares, which, as I said the other week, are like wallpaper.

"I don’t have that cash in the bank, so I don’t have that ability to right a cheque for £200million.

"I don’t have it. It’s very simple, it’s not there. I’d have to sell Sports Direct shares to fund that.

"So people outside of football looking in and the way sometimes it’s portrayed, is that those sort of wealth terms are in the bank – they’re not.

"I’ve got to make it crystal clear that I am nowhere near wealthy enough in football now to compete with the likes of Manchester City etc and not just Man City.

"Basically, it’s a wealthy individual taking on what is the equivalent of countries. I cannot and I will not."
photo: skysports