Rafa Benitez is ready to seriously consider moving to China after his departure from Newcastle — even thought it could dent his reputation around Europe’s elite.
Benitez turned 59 in April and reckons he has 10 years left as a top club boss.
“I still feel like a young manager,” he says, citing his backroom staff and family in helping him stay fresh, and to understand the modern player.
His aim is to win the Champions League again, having famously lifted the European Cup with Liverpool in 2005 — and more trophies, and he would also, one day, like to manage the Spain national team.
Benitez also said his first preference was to stay close to his Wirral home for a couple of years, until his youngest daughter has completed her exams.
But his immediate future could be much further afield, swapping England’s North-East for the Far East.
Newcastle’s failure to push through a contract extension means the picture has changed and a £12m a year contract on offer from Dalian Yifang now looks his best bet.
Dalian are currently 11th in the 16-team Chinese Super League, having won just three of this season’s first 14 games under first-year South Korean coach Choi Kang-hee.
Chelsea have yet to confirm the new departed Maurizio Sarri’s successor, and former Inter Milan, Napoli and Real Madrid boss Benitez would be interested in rejoining the Blues as a lower risk, but less popular appointment than fan-favourite former player Frank Lampard.
He maintains good relations with execs at Stamford Bridge after a previous spell in interim charge which saw the Blues win the 2013 Europa League, but would appear to be out of the frame at the moment.
Benitez’s reputation remains very much intact thanks to his revival of Newcastle after joining late in their 2015-16 relegation campaign, and he maintained close contact with directors and players around Europe’s top clubs during his three years on Tyneside.
Whether it be China, Spain, Italy or France – where the salary would be no more than £3m – Benitez will have greater options the longer he is out of work.
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