Benitez aims high at Dalian with Wanda's fortune

SHANGHAI • Rafael Benitez admits he faces a stiff challenge in China but hopes to "create something great" at Dalian Yifang, where he can rely on the deep pockets of the club's owner, huge Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group.

In separate comments posted on both his own and the club's websites, the 2005 Champions League winner with Liverpool said he had been approached on previous occasions about a move to China but that nothing lined up quite like Dalian's offer.

"This club has all the components that we were looking for to start a new chapter with the maximum motivation," Benitez, who parted ways with Newcastle last week, said on his home page.

The 59-year-old Spaniard singled out Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin, China's fourth-richest person according to Forbes magazine, as a man "keen to grow this club... with all the necessary resources".

Benitez, who was announced as Dalian's new manager on Tuesday, said his immediate focus was to build on the on-pitch successes of a team who are back in the Chinese Super League (CSL) this year after being relegated in 2014 and have climbed to mid-table at the season's halfway point.

But he also intends to play the long game by solidifying the club's foundations with a revamp of their youth talent system.

"We know it won't be simple as there are some big rivals, but we are confident that there is huge potential and great commitment from the directors of the club to create something great at this club," he said.

Benitez's annual salary is an estimated £12 million (S$20.5 million), an astonishing figure. There is, however, a bit more to his departure from the Magpies than hard cash.

In three years at Newcastle, when he led the club back into the Premier League and then kept them there twice, he dismissed the notion of moving to the CSL, speaking of his desire to stay close to his family on Merseyside, to compete in the Champions League again.

But nothing has changed, and he admitted that Newcastle did not share his ambitions.

"After Newcastle, it makes no sense to be fighting again at the bottom," he said.

"I don't think you can find a team in the bottom 10 bigger than Newcastle in terms of potential. Why do I have to wait for that when I have a chance to build something?

"I'm pleased that someone was really keen to get me, to give me the opportunity to develop a project and at the same time, with a really good economic proposal.

"It's an exciting experience of another culture. You want to build something."

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2019, with the headline 'Benitez aims high at Dalian with Wanda's fortune'. Print Edition | Subscribe