Rafael Benitez says unfulfilled promises from Newcastle owner Mike Ashley played a key role in his decision to quit the Premier League club for Chinese Super League team Dalian Yifang.

Rafael Benitez has put himself in the shop window by saying his ‘priority’ is a return to the Premier League.

The Spaniard has enjoyed three spells in English football to date, first, establishing himself as a firm fan favourite during his time at Liverpool, steering the club to Champions League glory on that night in Istanbul.

An ill-fated spell at Inter Milan would follow, before returning to the Premier League as an interim boss at Chelsea, and while it was a wildly unpopular appointment among Stamford Bridge faithful, he still steered the Stamford Bridge club to Europa League success.

Stints at Napoli and Real Madrid came next, before making his most recent return to English football with Newcastle, unable to save the Magpies from relegation to the Championship, before guiding the North East giants back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

The Spaniard was a firm fan favourite at St James’ Park, but left the club in 2019 following disagreements with controversial owner, Mike Ashley.


Benitez opted for a move to the Chinese Super League with Dalian, though left his role in January citing concerns over the health of his family due to the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason for his departure.

The 61-year-old is, however, keen to get back in the managerial saddle, and while is seemingly open to working anywhere in Europe, he admits a job in England is his ‘priority’ – his family still residing on Merseyside since his days in charge at Liverpool.

“I moved to China because there were no top sides here, so I needed to keep competing and doing my job,” Benitez told Sky Sports.

“I’m watching every Premier League game and sometimes Championship games so that I’m always ready. The priority is England, the Premier League, my family is here… I like the style of football here. I’ll try to be ready here.

“I’m watching the Serie A because it’s a good league for me but there, in France, in Germany, in Portugal, I don’t see too many options… to have a project where you can develop players and make the team more competitive.”

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