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Benitez to take charge of Chinese side Dalian Yifang

Rafael Benitez managed Liverpool to the UEFA Champions League crown in 2005 and has been in charge at European giants like Inter, Chelsea, and Real Madrid © AFP/File / Paul ELLIS

SHANGHAI, China, Jul 2Champions League-winning manager Rafael Benitez said Tuesday that he will join Chinese top-tier side Dalian Yifang, just days after his three-year reign at English club Newcastle United came to an end.

“After a long path… We start a new challenge! I’m happy to begin this new project with Dalian Yifang,” the Spaniard wrote on his verified Twitter account.

Benitez, who guided Liverpool to the UEFA Champions League crown in 2005 and has managed at European giants like Inter, Chelsea, and Real Madrid, parted ways with Newcastle last week.

The 59-year-old becomes the latest big-name foreign manager to try his luck in the Chinese Super League (CSL), which have included the likes of Brazil’s World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, and Italian legend Fabio Cannavaro, who remains in charge at CSL powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande.

Dalian Yifang, who are currently in joint 10th place in the CSL, also confirmed his appointment.

“Dalian Yifang Football Club is honoured to have Mr. Rafa Benitez,” the club said on its social media account.

“We believe that through his efforts, he will be able to rebuild the glory and realise the expectations of the majority of fans.”

The club, which did not divulge terms, has never won the Chinese league title.

Unconfirmed reports have said previously that Benitez had been offered a contract worth £12 million ($15 million) per year by Dalian Yifang.

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Benitez was a hugely popular figure at Newcastle after leading the club to promotion in his first full season and stabilising Newcastle in the Premier League over the past two years.

Early in his coaching career, Benitez won two Spanish La Liga titles at Valencia, the come-from-behind Champions League title with Liverpool in the “Miracle of Istanbul”, and was twice named UEFA Manager of the Year.

He never won the English Premier League with Liverpool, however, but subsequently won some hardware at Chelsea and Napoli.

Benitez didn’t last a full season before Real Madrid dismissed him early in 2016, however.

Joining Newcastle shortly after, he was unable to save the team from relegation, but became hugely popular with fans by earning promotion straight back to the Premier League the following season.

Newcastle finished well clear of relegation this season, raising hopes for the club’s future.

But Benitez has said that differing visions over strategy with club owner Mike Ashley prevented them reaching an agreement on a contract extension.

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