Benitez looking to next year after 'very strange' CSL season

AFP , Wednesday 11 Nov 2020

Rafa Benitez
Dalian Pro manager Rafa Benitez (AFP)

Rafa Benitez took aim at the revamped Chinese Super League, saying that it made "no sense", but the revered Spanish coach is already planning for another season with Dalian Pro.

The former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager concluded a difficult campaign with a 4-0 defeat as Dalian finished 12th of 16 teams in the CSL, which was reformatted and delayed by five months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"This season, with the format of the competition, it doesn't matter where you finish, so it's just so strange that I don't care," the 60-year-old, who guided Liverpool to Champions League glory in 2005, said, referring to Dalian's final league spot.

Benitez took over at Dalian in July last year and reportedly has a contract worth £12 million ($16 million) a year after tax until December 2021.

That would mean another campaign in China and despite frequent reports of interest from the Premier League, Benitez appears set to stay put.

"It's just a season that you have to finish... and we have to start thinking of the next one because this one was very, very special, very strange, and you can't evaluate and you can't consider anything because the format of the competition was totally different from a normal one," he said.

A young Dalian squad won five of their 20 matches and ended the CSL with a 4-3 aggregate defeat to Giovanni van Bronckhorst's Guangzhou R&F on Tuesday.

The CSL started in July, five months late, and all matches were played in two secure "bubbles" in Suzhou and Dalian because of the coronavirus.

After the first phase, teams went into a knockout-style competition over two legs to determine league placings, including who wins the title and who is relegated.

It means that even though Tianjin Teda failed to win in 14 games in the first phase, a 3-1 aggregate victory over Jordi Cruyff's Shenzhen in the second stage was enough to secure survival.

In contrast, Shijiazhuang Ever Bright could be relegated later Wednesday, despite winning five matches this season.

"Maybe someone can explain how Teda, winning one game, was safe, and Ever Bright, winning five games but still playing for relegation," said an unimpressed Benitez.

"So it has no sense."

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