Football: Benitez leaves Chinese side Dalian citing difficulties due to Covid-19

Rafa Benitez said he hoped he had left behind a vision for the club to build on. PHOTO: RAFA BENITEZ/INSTAGRAM

(REUTERS) - Rafa Benitez has left Chinese Super League football side Dalian Pro, with the Spaniard saying on Saturday (Jan 23) that the Covid-19 pandemic was a factor in his decision.

The former Liverpool and Real Madrid head coach was hired on a lucrative contract worth a reported £12 million (S$21.8 million) per year after he left Newcastle in 2019.

"Unfortunately, like so many things in the last year, Covid-19 has changed our lives and our projects. From today, both my coaching staff and I will sadly no longer be coaching Dalian," Benitez said in a statement.

"The pandemic is still here, for all of us, and supporting our families has been a priority when making this decision."

Dalian failed to qualify for the Super League's championship stage last season, which was affected by the coronavirus pandemic, finishing seventh in their eight-team group. But they secured their top-flight status in the relegation playoffs.

Benitez said he hoped he had left behind a vision for the club to build on.

"I'm convinced we have left a structure and a methodology that will allow the project to go ahead successfully," the 60-year-old said.

"The first team has been rejuvenated and the foundations have been laid for the future, from the grassroots schools to the top."

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