Benitez relishes fine start at Dalian

Dalian Yifang's new head coach Rafael Benitez relying on a translator in their match against Henan Jianye last Sunday. He has contrasted his warm welcome with his troubled tenure at Newcastle.
Dalian Yifang's new head coach Rafael Benitez relying on a translator in their match against Henan Jianye last Sunday. He has contrasted his warm welcome with his troubled tenure at Newcastle.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SHANGHAI • Rafa Benitez has revealed he has had more meetings with senior officials at Dalian Yifang in his first week in charge of the Chinese Super League outfit than with Mike Ashley during his three-year tenure at Newcastle.

Writing on his blog for the first time since moving to China, he highlighted the warm welcome he had received at the club in contrast with the difficult relationship he endured with Newcastle owner Ashley and his management team.

"Since the moment of our arrival, we have really been touched by the kindness and respect that we have been shown," Benitez wrote.

"As we all know from experience, in football, just as in everyday life, when people show you respect and affection and do everything they can to make things easier for you, life is much happier, even when you face difficult moments.

"I must say that I have had more meetings with the chairman, the president and the general manager this week than I had in three years at Newcastle."

The post, the first on Benitez's blog in almost five years, came after a tumultuous spell at Newcastle overshadowed by his long-publicised unhappiness with Ashley.

Benitez left St James' Park at the end of last month after not renewing his contract, with his reign blighted by claims that the retail magnate, who owns British sporting goods giant Sports Direct, was refusing to back him in the transfer market.

The former Liverpool manager led the Magpies to promotion to the Premier League in 2017 before keeping the club in England's top flight for two seasons.

Chinese media have reported Benitez has signed a 21-month contract worth about US$21 million (S$28.4 million) and he has already started to justify his massive wage packet, after securing a 3-1 win over Henan Jianye in his first game in charge to remain 10th in the standings.

The victory, though, was not without issues with Benitez forced to coach via a translator for the first time. "I'd like to congratulate the players as it's not easy to adjust to a new coaching staff," he wrote. "We beat Henan Jianye 3-1 and I can tell you that the experience was really strange.

"You can't transmit what you want directly to the players, as it has to go through a translator. If you shout, he has to shout too, and you have to trust that he's getting across what you want."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2019, with the headline 'Benitez relishes fine start at Dalian'. Print Edition | Subscribe