HONGKONG (Reuters) – Rafa Benitez revealed he has had more meetings with senior officials at Dalian Yifang in his first week in charge of the Chinese Super League club than with Mike Ashley during his three-year tenure at Newcastle United.
Writing on his blog for the first time since joining Dalian, Benitez 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 difficult spell at Newcastle overshadowed by his strained relationship with Ashley.
Benitez left Newcastle at the end of June after not renewing his contract and his reign was blighted by claims Ashley was refusing to back him in the transfer market.
The Spaniard did lead Newcastle to promotion to the Premier League in 2017 before keeping the club in England’s top flight for two seasons.
Benitez has signed a 21-month contract with Dalian worth about $21 million (£16.8 million), local media reported.
Dalian won their first game under the former Napoli and Liverpool manager, securing a 3-1 victory over Henan Jianye to remain 10th in the standings and open up a nine-point gap over the clubs in the 16-team league’s two relegation places.
The win, though, was not without issues as Benitez learns to coach via a translator for the first time in his career.
“I’d like to congratulate the players as it’s not easy to adjust to a new coaching staff,” wrote Benitez.
“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.”
(Reporting by Michael Church, editing by Ed Osmond)