Benitez has left Dalian by mutual consent, citing the impact of coronavirus as the main reason for his departure. The Spaniard was appointed at the Chinese outfit in July 2019 after his contract at Newcastle.
Following his departure, a flurry of bets were taken on Benitez becoming the next Celtic manager, with one bookmaker closing the market. Current boss Neil Lennon is under severe pressure as rivals Rangers, who are 23 points clear at the top of the Premiership, run away with the title. Ex-Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe had moved to odds-on just days ago in the wake of Celtic’s 2-2 draw at Livingston on Wednesday.
"Unfortunately, like many other things in the last year, Covid-19 has changed our lives and our projects,” said Benitez in a statement.
"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 and, 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, and being close supporting our families has been a priority when making this decision."
The 60-year-old has previously spoken about being linked with the Celtic post following Rodgers’ sudden exit in February 2019.
“I was aware of some interest but we didn’t have any official approach,” confirmed Benitez when asked if he had been in the frame for a move to Parkhead. “I was still under contract at Newcastle so we couldn’t even consider this option.”
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