Rafael Benitez has left his position as coach of Dalian Professional by mutual consent.

Former Liverpool, Inter and Real Madrid boss Benitez linked up with the Chinese Super League side in July 2019 following his departure from Newcastle United.

He signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with the club but, citing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Benitez and Dalian have elected to part ways early.

"Unfortunately, like so many things in the last year, COVID-19 has changed our lives and our projects," Benitez said in a statement on his website.

"From today, both my coaching staff and I will sadly no longer be coaching the Dalian Professional F.C.

"It has been an incredible experience and for this I would like to thank all my staff, coaches, medical and club staff as well as our players; their commitment to us in the first place, their support during the time we were there, and their effort has been magnificent.

"The pandemic is still here, for all of us, and supporting our families has been a priority when making this decision.

"Behind us, in China, and especially in Dalian, we are leaving many friends and good memories in a great city with very knowledgeable fans. We have tried to learn and understand a new culture and also to transmit a more professional, more European vision of football with a new methodology.

"I'm convinced we have left a structure and a methodology that will allow the project to go ahead successfully. Since we arrived, the first team has been rejuvenated and the foundations have been laid for the future, from the grassroots schools to the top.

"In addition, it has been done taking into account the training of players in China under a unique project, that combines football and training at school level up until the doors of the professional teams.

"I say goodbye sadly under these circumstances, but at the same time I am convinced that the future will be bright for Dalian Pro FC."

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