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Dalian sees Benitez as potential savior

By SHI FUTIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2019-06-26 09:47
Rafa Benitez on Monday left Newcastle United and is reportedly mulling an offer to become the new coach of Chinese Super League outfit Dalian Yifang. REUTERS

Struggling Dalian Yifang could turn to respected Spanish coach Rafa Benitez in a bid to revive its flagging Chinese Super League fortunes.

On Monday it was confirmed that Benitez, a Champions League winner with Liverpool, is leaving English Premier League club Newcastle United following three years at the helm.

Benitez has reportedly become frustrated with the size of the transfer kitty made available to him by owner Mike Ashley.

"It is with disappointment that we announce manager Rafael Benitez will leave Newcastle United upon the expiry of his contract on 30th June, 2019," said a statement from the Magpies.

"We have worked hard to extend Rafa's contract over a significant period of time, but it has not been-and will not be-possible to reach an agreement with Rafa and his representatives."

Sky Sports claims that Dalian could be the next destination for Benitez, with the bigspending team reportedly prepared to make him the best-paid coach in the CSL, on a salary of around $15 million.

If he opts for China, former Chelsea, Real Madrid and Valencia boss Benitez would inherit a team in turmoil, with a dispute involving Belgian star Yannick Carrasco piling on the misery for current coach Choi Kang-hee.

Despite the much-heralded signing of Slovakian playmaker Marek Hamsik from Napoli in February, Dalian is currently only 11th in the CSL.

Carrasco is another of the club's big-name imports, arriving last year along with Nicolas Gaitan from Atletico Madrid for a combined fee of around $58 million.

Gaitan has since departed for Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire and Carrasco is now seemingly angling for a return to Europe, with the winger missing training sessions and blaming a missed flight for his no-show for a June 15 loss to Hebei China Fortune.

Dalian has taken a dim view of Carrasco's apparent disinterest.

"Given that Dalian Yifang player Yannick Carrasco missed the match against Hebei China Fortune for no reason and he has been showing a negative attitude in training, the club has decided to sanction the player," a club statement read.

"The penalties include a self-review to the team, a fine and a training suspension. Our club has always focused on discipline and no one is above the club's collective good. We've been treating all the players equally. If anyone crosses the red line, there will be serious punishment."

Carrasco was omitted from last Sunday's lineup for a 2-2 draw with Tianjin Tianhai.

"For the president and the owner of the club, I wanted to play this match. Unfortunately the staff decided otherwise," Carrasco wrote on social media.

"The attitude of some of the club's leaders and my teammates towards me is incomprehensible given my commitment and performance with the team so far. The team needs me and I want to help the team. This problem needs to be solved."

As the war of words escalated, coach Choi said after the match: "The club is considering importing big-name foreigners, but currently the priority is to earn more points.

"If a foreign player wants to fit in to the team better in the future, he needs to display better professionalism and more devotion."

If Benitez does take the reins, he could soon be boosted by some attacking reinforcements, with reports in Italy suggesting Dalian has revived its interest in Lazio and Italy striker Ciro Immobile.

The 59-year-old Benitez was adored by Newcastle fans, guiding the northeastern club to promotion in 2017 and recording respectable 10th and 13th-place finishes in its last two EPL campaigns.

He secured legendary status at Anfield by steering Liverpool to its famous 2005 Champions League triumph, when the Reds fought back from 3-0 down to beat AC Milan in a match dubbed the 'Miracle of Istanbul'.

However, Benitez has not always garnered such adoration.

An ill-fated spell at Real Madrid will be remembered most for his falling out with Cristiano Ronaldo. And despite winning the Europa League with Chelsea, Benitez became a figure of ridicule among Blues fans during a caretaker spell at the London club.

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