Rafa Benitez Leaves Lucrative CSL Contract Over Pandemic Difficulties

The former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle coach said he has left Chinese Super League club Dalian Pro.

Rafa Benitez has left Chinese Super League side Dalian Pro, with the Spaniard saying on Saturday 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 pounds ($16 million) per year after he left Newcastle United 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."

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Dalian failed to qualify for the Super League's Championship stage last season, which was affected by the 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."

($1 = 0.7308 pounds) (Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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