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.
Benitez left Newcastle when his contract expired during the close-season after a testing three-year spell at St James’s Park marred by numerous spats with the controversial Ashley.
The Spaniard’s lucrative move to Dalian, on a reported £12 million ($14.5 million) per year deal, has fuelled accusations from Newcastle that he only accepted the Chinese offer for financial reasons.
Steve Bruce replaced Benitez as Magpies manager, but the feud has continued, with Newcastle chief executive Lee Charnley writing in the matchday programme for Sunday’s Premier League game against Arsenal that the former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss made a money-motivated decision.
But, in a column for The Athletic, Benitez made it clear he felt let down by the Newcastle hierarchy, who he says failed to back his desire for investment in the club’s infrastructure while failing to offer him an improved contract at the end of last season.
“I tried to do my best every day, even staying when we went down to the Championship and saying ‘no’ to other offers — bigger offers than the one I recently accepted with Dalian Yifang, by the way,” he wrote.
“If I was only interested in moving ‘for money’, as Charnley stated, I could have done it much earlier.
“Newcastle’s board had a year to sort out my contract but, when we met after the end of last season, they didn’t make me a proper offer.
“They told me they didn’t want to invest in the academy or the training ground — if they like, I can explain the reason why Mike Ashley refused to do that.
“After that meeting, I knew they would not come back with a serious offer and, when it arrived, 19 days later, it was for the same salary as three years earlier and with less control over signings.
“After three years of unfulfilled promises, I didn’t trust them.”
Benitez could not prevent Newcastle from being relegated after joining in March 2016, but he won promotion from the Championship the following season and led them to 10th and 13th-placed finishes over the past two years in the Premier League.