Football

Rafael Benitez takes swipe at Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley

Rafael Benitez revealed he has had more meetings with senior officials at Dalian Yifang in his first week in charge of the Chinese Super League club than with Mike Ashley during his three-year tenure at Newcastle United.

Writing on his blog for the first time since joining Dalian, Benitez highlighted the warm welcome he had received at the club, in contrast with the difficult relationship he endured with Newcastle owner Ashley and his management team.

"Since the moment of our arrival, we have really been touched by the kindness and respect that we have been shown," Benitez wrote.

"As we all know from experience, in football, just as in everyday life, when people show you respect and affection and do everything they can to make things easier for you, life is much happier, even when you face difficult moments.

"I must say that I have had more meetings with the chairman, president and general manager this week than I had in three years at Newcastle."

The post, the first on Benitez's blog in almost five years, came after a difficult spell at Newcastle overshadowed by his strained relationship with Ashley.

Benitez left Newcastle at the end of last month, after not renewing his contract, and his reign was blighted by claims Ashley was refusing to back him in the transfer market.

The Spaniard led Newcastle to promotion to the English Premier League in 2017, before keeping the club in England's top flight for two seasons.

Benitez has signed a 21-month contract with Dalian worth about US$21 million (S$28.6m), local media reported.

Dalian won their first game under the 59-year-old, securing a 3-1 victory over Henan Jianye to remain 10th in the standings. - REUTERS

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