Rafa Benitez’s Dalian Yifang were thrashed 5-1 at Tianjin Quanjian yesterday. The Spaniard has recorded just one win over the past nine games and his club is floundering in 10th place in the Chinese Super League.
The club will end their campaign on Sunday at home against Beijing Renhe. A win could see them finish the season in ninth place in what has to be an extremely disappointing start for Benitez in China.
The 59-year-old has been in charge of Dalian Yifang for 16 matches now and has won just 5 of those while losing 7.
We would have expected Benitez to have his club on the upswing after almost 5 months at the helm. The thought was that he would get Dalian Yifang firing away to finish as high as possible this season. Then next season they would be going for the title.
Benitez still, of course, has the ability to get things turned around for next season. We would expect Dalian Yifang to be competing near the top next year.
However, Rafa will have limited options to bring in non-Chinese players for next season. They already are at their maximum of four players in the squad. Of those players, Salomon Rondon, Yannick Carrasco, and Emmanuel Boateng are contracted until 2022 while 32-year-old Marek Hamsik has a contract until 2021. He’ll likely try to recruit some of China’s top players for next season.
Benitez will have to show significant improvement next season or he could be in trouble. Chinese clubs who spend big on their managers generally expect instant results.
Ex-Bayer Leverkusen manager Roger Schmidt was fired from Beijing Guoan in July despite being in second place in the league. The club had lost three straight matches and fallen out of the top spot for which the 52-year-old German was sacked. Before that run of three straight losses, Beijing Guoan had won 7 of 8 matches.
It’s a ruthless affair in Chinese football and many managers have been suddenly let go when performances don’t go their way. We don’t think Rafa’s position is at that point just yet but he’ll need to get off to a flying start next season.