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Benitez appointed Dalian Yifang head coach after Newcastle exit

09:08 BST 02/07/2019
Rafa Benitez
The 59-year-old has voiced his disappointment at leaving St James' Park but will now officially take over the China-based club

Rafa Benitez has been officially appointed as the new coach of Dalian Yifang after leaving Premier League club Newcastle.

The Chinese Super League club hosted a press conference on Tuesday where the Spaniard was presented to the media.

Benitez left St James' Park after he failed to come to an agreement with the Magpies over a new deal.

Newcastle fans widely met his departure with anger, and it sparked fresh calls for owner Mike Ashley to follow the former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss out the door.

Benitez had been linked with a number of clubs as his Newcastle contract ran down over the last few months, but rumours emerged he had a big-money offer from China during the closing stages of the Premier League season.

He has admitted he was eager for a resolution on Tyneside, though, but claimed the club did "not share the same vision".

And the 59-year-old has also opened up about his connection with the Newcastle supporters.

“I’m sad because Newcastle has been my home," Benitez told The Times  "If Liverpool is where my family live, then Newcastle will always be my other home.  

"You can sell a house, but you can never sell a home. To have that connection with a city and fans, it’s strange and difficult to lose that. I feel like an honorary Geordie now.

“In your career, you come to understand that football is a business, so you have to be professional, but sometimes it’s about the relationship with fans.

"I was lucky to have that in Valencia and Tenerife, in Napoli and Liverpool, and Newcastle was the same. In our bad runs, it meant I could stay calm and do my job. They were behind us. It is difficult to say goodbye, to say goodbye to that feeling.

“I have just a . . . not regret, but a little bit of disappointment that I couldn’t go higher. I’m really pleased with what we did with the resources we had, with all the things around – everybody knows it’s not easy – but I’m just disappointed we couldn’t achieve more, that we couldn’t compete and reach the real potential of this fantastic club.”

Benitez led Newcastle to a 13th-placed finish in the Premier League last term, securing a third consecutive season in the top flight. 

The manager led a Championship title-winning campaign in 2016-17 to ensure the Magpies returned to the top flight at the first time of asking, having been relegated with the club after taking over at the back end of the previous season.