DALIAN, China (AP) — Rafael Benitez says the offer to coach Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang “arrived at the perfect time.”
Benitez was unveiled as the coach on Tuesday, just two days after his contract at Newcastle ended. Negotiations on an extension finished when club owner Mike Ashley didn’t agree with Benitez’s plans on how to become competitive in the English Premier League.
He wanted to stay at St James’ Park “but I didn’t just want to sign an extended contract, I wanted to be part of a project. Unfortunately it became increasingly clear to me that those at the top of the club did not share the same vision.”
A day after Dalian Yifang’s South Korean manager, Choi Kang-hee, resigned, Benitez received a 2 1/2-year contract to improve a club which was promoted to the Super League last year and finished 11th out of 16 teams.
“I have had offers of greater financial significance during my career, but they weren’t the project I was looking for,” Benitez said on his website. “What I have found at Dalian is an incredible project that has arrived at the perfect time and this has been a major factor in my decision. We’ve accepted the challenge of leading a superb project with the full backing and confidence of the club’s leadership team.”
Benitez, a winner of 13 trophies across Europe, has taken the coaching team he had at Newcastle — Paco de Miguel, Mikel Antia, Antonio Gómez — and added Darko Matic, a Croatian who played 10 seasons in the Superleague.
“If, when we leave Dalian, the club is stronger than when we arrived, then we will have achieved one of our objectives,” Benitez said.
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