OWNER Mike Ashley broke his silence yesterday to tell Newcastle United fans - and manager Rafa Benitez - that the club cannot compete in the transfer market with the Premier League's big guns.

The billionaire businessman insisted he is not in the same financial league as the backers of clubs such as Manchester City.

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

United's supremo outlined his transfer thinking shortly after Benitez revealed that the pair had not spoken for nearly three months.

But Benitez, who deals on a day-to-day basis with managing director Lee Charnley, has now been left in absolutely no doubt about Ashley's transfer policy.

The owner said:"Every penny the club generates, Rafa can have, but it won’t generate enough.

"It’s Newcastle United. It doesn’t have a £40m a year stadium naming rights deal, it doesn’t. So I don’t want the fans to think ‘that’s great, Rafa’s getting £150m in the morning’. He’s not.

"With 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, okay. In theory I’m 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 write a cheque for £200m. I don’t have it. It’s very simple, it’s not there.

"I’d have to sell Sports Direct shares to fund that. 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 - and not just Man City."

It is a rare public statement from Ashley and is clearly a reaction to a week when Benitez has revealed his frustration over the club's reluctance to push through deals for players he wants.

Benitez last spoke to Ashley after United sealed promotion in May. “The momentum was there, everybody was so excited," the United manager said yesterday.

"That was an important period for us, but we couldn't do what we wanted to do for different reasons and the reality is, we are where we are.”

Benitez again made it clear yesterday ahead of tomorrow's home game against Tottenham that he finds it difficult to accept Newcastle would not find the cash to sign players such as Willy Caballero and Tammy Abraham.

“We can bring in someone, but we are not signing £25m strikers because we cannot, so we will try to do our best with the resources that we have,” Benitez said.

“We will try to improve the squad, to improve the team as much as we can, but if not, these players have done a great job and hopefully because they are together and they know what we want, they can do a job also in the Premier League.

"Hopefully we can do it, we have some weeks to do it. But I am not expecting any miracles now. What I am expecting is to improve the squad. If everything is fine and we have a team who can compete, let’s see if we can keep improving things.”

“The first priority is to get three points against Tottenham and after that, see every week where we are.

“It would be easy for me to say to the fans, 'I want to do this, I want to win this...'. Now, at the moment, the aim is to be sure we have a competitive team that will be improving.”

United’s supporters fear that Benitez will quit, but he told them yesterday that he intends to stay.

"He said:"I'm here and my commitment is 100 per cent. The main message from me for the fans to get behind the players because it's now the way.

"I was telling the players yesterday that we cannot make excuses, so we have to be ready and try to win the games and that's it.”

“I am not saying I am really pleased with everything because it's not true, but I am not saying that I will not do my best to be as high as possible in the table."

Striker Dwight Gayle is in the squad after worries over his hamstring and Benitez must decide whether to start him ahead of Aleksandar Mitrovic.