Rafa Benitez is said to be in demand. And that is certainly worrying news for Dalian Yifang, the Chinese Super League that the Spaniard is currently managing. He is a popular figure at the club, that’s for sure. And they will want to keep their man, for sure.
Benitez, of course, is one of the most recognisable, most reliable bosses in world football. And the problem that Dalian Yifang face is that two London clubs, namely Arsenal and West Ham United, are keen on recruiting him. That’s if you choose to belief the swirl of media speculation currently engulfing the vacant position as head coach of the Gunners — as well as the intense conjecture surrounding the future of Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini. The Chilean boss is still at the helm at the London Stadium – and it’s true that his side chalked up a memorable win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge at the weekend — but overall the form has been poor and his job is said to be at risk.
Arsenal, meanwhile, axed coach Spaniard Unai Emery last week after a dismal run of form and have since appointed former midfielder Freddie Ljungberg as interim boss. But it seems unlikely that the ex-Sweden ace will get the job on a permanent basis unless he can turn things round quickly for the Gunners. His first game ended with a 2-2 draw at Norwich City and his next is against Brighton at the Emirates. Most pundits would agree that Benitez is far better suited and certainly more qualified and experienced to run the north London side as opposed to a first timer.
But if these clubs want to lure the former Liverpool, Valencia and Newcastle United boss back to the Premier League — he moved to China from the Magpies at the end of last season — they will have to dig deep to compensate the current holders of his contract because the Dalian Yifang powerbrokers want in the region of £20million to allow Benitez to leave. They would rather he didn’t though!
It’d be a big blow to the club after persuading him to make the move to China; it was seen very much as something of a coup to land his services. Yet despite his popularity he hasn’t exactly been a revelation in charge and he has only managed to steer his side to a league position of ninth in a 16-team table. The season has just concluded and it was another foreign import, in the shape of Fabio Cannavaro who took the spoils by guiding Guangzhou Evergrande to their eighth Chinese Super League title — and in so doing capturing the first major honour of his managerial career.