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Opinion

Why Rafa Benitez move can make perfect sense rather than be a China Crisis for his career

2 years ago
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Fair to say that when we first saw speculation about Rafa Benitez potentially ending up in China, you would have been hard pushed to find any Newcastle fan who gave it any serious consideration.

As the days and weeks dragged by though and no positive (or otherwise) announcement from the club, it looked less and less likely that it was going to end well for Newcastle supporters.

Unless a takeover did somehow become reality, it was becoming obvious that Rafa Benitez couldn’t continue working under Mike Ashley.

The owner and his minions making it crystal clear nothing would be changing, so it was up to Rafa to sign up to more of the same, or jog on.

Many people went down the line of the manager staying on just because there were no obvious vacancies elsewhere for him to potentially land. That was never going to happen, signing up for more guaranteed relegation struggles would never have been seriously considered by Rafa Benitez, just setting yourself up for an eventual fall. Newcastle have cheated relegation these past two years with such minimal net spend on the squad, even with Rafa’s help that luck can’t last forever.

In his exclusive interview with Rafa Benitez on Monday, George Caulkin confirmed that the now ex-NUFC boss is now in China and set to be unveiled as the new Dalian Yifang manager.

However, this doesn’t have to be seen as some kind of China Crisis for his future career prospects, here’s why.

After leaving Man City in 2016, Manuel Pellegrini spent two years in China before bouncing back to the Premier League with West Ham,  Rafa Benitez watching on as the Hammers gave him £100m to spend in summer 2018 as Rafa was forced to make a £20m profit on transfers in and out in that window.

As well as that example of China not necessarily being the end to a manager’s career (and Pellegrini was three years older than Rafa is now, when he went there), there are many other positive sides you can put forward as to why this move for Benitez makes sense.

A club such as Dalian Yifang will be desperate to have a manager of his quality, so safe to say Rafa Benitez can dictate the terms, something which I feel will be at least as important to the Spaniard as is how many millions he will be paid.

Whatever deal is announced, I think it is pretty much guaranteed that Rafa Benitez will have opt-out clauses included. Unlike being  tied to Mike Ashley these past three years, Rafa will surely insist that he can leave if circumstances dictate that he wants/has to.

The Chinese Super League season runs from 1 March to 1 December 2019 and in my opinion, this has been also a key factor in his decision.

By the time this current league season in China is coming to an end, it will be prime time for a number of big European clubs to be considering making  a change of manager.

In England alone, you have a situation of only four Champions League places and two of the ‘big’ six have to miss out. In the Autumn you will have at least two of those six not too happy and indeed with clubs such as Wolves continuing to spend big, you could see more than two struggling to stay on the gravy train.

That is of course what happened in November 2012 when Rafa Benitez got the job at Chelsea, a club in ‘crisis’ a few months into the season.

I think it makes every bit of sense that if no job is right for Rafa in Europe at the minute, he will have opportunities come up in the coming months.

Of course, he might even find in the meantime that the lifestyle in China suits him…

Being close to the family home has always been up as a factor but Rafa’s kids are now three and a half years older than when he took the Newcastle job. Plus of course you can guarantee that when he does want to come home for a visit it will be private jet provided for him, not slumming it.

Also, just maybe after three and a half years of Newcastle United and Mike Ashley madness, Rafa could just fancy a little less stress in his life.

As a Newcastle fan I know I would!

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