Rafa Benitez ‘We can proudly say that we’ve achieved our goal’
It has been tough times for Rafa Benitez.
As well as the virus affecting life in general in China, it also produced massive specific challenges for football in the country and especially for what the former Newcastle boss is trying to do at Dalian Pro.
Numerous extra changes and restrictions making the job of overhauling the Chinese Super League club’s squad, even more difficult.
Nevertheless, Rafa Benitez was able to declare today: ‘We can proudly say that we’ve achieved our goal.’
Due to the virus, the Chinese Super League had a much changed format and shortened season.
The clubs divided into two groups of eight, playing each of the other seven clubs in their group twice. Then the two groups coming together, the top four in each battling for honours, the bottom four in each group battling relegation.
A complicated series of relegation play-offs could ensue unless you won your opening two legged play-off.
Dalian Pro were up against Shijiazhuang Ever Bright and lost the first leg 1-0, then playing the second leg earlier today.
A 2-0 win for Rafa Benitez and his team followed, Salomon Rondon playing the full 90 minutes but not adding to his nine goals, which have now been scored in 16 league games.
Rafa and Dalian Pro are now safe from relegation and further play-off games ahead mean they could now finish as high as ninth of the 16 clubs.
Maybe not the most stellar achievement of his managerial career but most Newcastle fans who appreciate what he did at St James Park, will be happy to hear that he’s once again done a professional job and kept the club safe in difficult circumstances.
During this league season which kicked off in July, players and management haven’t seen family for many months and have only been able to leave their hotel for training and playing, to help prevent the virus compromising the matches something which has proved very successful in terms of getting through the league season and not contracting the virus.
Rafa Benitez has now been at Dalian for some 16 months of his two and a half year contract after joining in July 2019, halfway through their 2019 season. With the 2020 season shortly to conclude, interesting to see what happens now, whether Rafa stays on or not and if so, whether he then ends up extending this initial Dalian contract.
Difficult to see him not returning to Europe, if not at the end of this season, then certainly the end of the 2021 one.
Rafa Benitez commenting via his own personal website:
“Following our 2-0 victory against Shijiazhuang Ever Bright we can proudly say that we’ve achieved our goal.
“We reorganised the team, incorporating some new young players to form the team with the lowest median age in the Chinese Super League and now we’ll fight for 9th place before relaxing a bit after a season as complicated as this one has been.
“It’s been an incredible experience for our young players. They, with the great contribution of some of our older players, have helped us to create a balanced team which has been competitive till the last in every match.
“Congratulations and thank you to all of them, as well as to all of the staff and the bosses who have supported us at every step.
“I also wouldn’t want to forget the fans, who have cheered us on both from the stand and at the entrance of the hotel, this win is also dedicated to them.
The Dalian Pro/Wanda project continues. Now, for the next victory.”
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