The Spaniard, who left St James’ Park this summer after three years in charge of the Magpies, wrote in a blog on his website: “I must say that I have had more meetings with the chairman, the president and the general manager this week than I had in three years at Newcastle.
“They haven’t just been work meetings, rather signs of respect in which we have been able to appreciate the differences and similarities in our cultures.”
Benitez, who has managed Liverpool, Napoli, Inter Milan and Valencia, exited Newcastle last month upon the expiry of his contract, having failed to find common ground with Ashley over the direction of the Premier League club.
Writing about his first week at Dalian Yifang, Benitez continued: “Since the moment of our arrival, we have really been touched by the kindness and respect that we have been shown. Our hosts have treated us with great consideration and are always keen to make us happy.
“As we all know from experience, in football – just as in everyday life – when people show you respect and affection and do everything they can to make things easier for you, life is much happier, even when you face difficult moments.”
The 2005 Champions League-winning coach was unable to rescue Newcastle from relegation after arriving on Tyneside in March 2016, but achieved promotion from the Championship in his first full season at the helm, winning the league.
Along the way, the Spaniard earned the adoration of the Newcastle fans, whose resentment of Sports Direct chief executive Ashley only increased with news of Benitez’s departure.
Benitez’s new side secured a 3-1 win over fellow Super League team Henan Jianye this week, in the Spaniard’s first game as manager.
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