Rafael Benitez has left Chinese Super League club Dalian Professional by mutual consent, it has been confirmed.
The Spaniard was appointed in July 2019 after his contract at Newcastle expired.
Upon leaving the CSL outfit, Benitez cited the impact of coronavirus as the main reason for his departure.
Benitez said in a statement: “Unfortunately, like many other things in the last year, Covid-19 has changed our lives and our projects.
“Unfortunately, from today, both my coaching staff and myself will not continue training Dalian Professional FC.
“Without a doubt, it has been an incredible experience. For that reason, I would like to thank my team, coaches, medical staff and the staff of the club, as well as our players, for their commitment to us. Their support during our time in Dalian and their effort, which has been tremendous.
“The pandemic is still here, among us. Being close supporting our families has been a priority when making this decision.”
Bruce in Benitez broadside
Inevitably, Benitez will find himself linked with a return to the Premier League at a time when his successor at Newcastle, Steve Bruce, is coming under increasing pressure.
Frustrated by constant comparisons to Benitez’s popular three-year reign on Tyneside, Bruce retorted this week: “He was a world-class manager. Where did he finish (10th and 13th)? Is that success?
“We matched the mighty Rafa last year. We are in the bottom half of the Premier League and have been there for the best part of 15 years.”