MADRID — Chinese Super League side Dalian Professional is eager to appoint former Barcelona man Quique Setien as its new head coach, according to reports in the Spanish press.

Dalian are looking for a new coach after previous incumbent Rafa Benitez announced his departure from the club on Sunday after 18 months in charge.

“It looks like [Benitez] will be replaced by a Spaniard, since Quique Setien is being lined up as the potential replacement. The former Barcelona coach has been considered by various clubs in the Asian league and is in advanced talks with Dalian Pro,” said Spanish news outlet Marca.

60-year-old Benitez left Dalian with one year remaining on his contract with the club, which finished 12th in the 16-team Chinese Super League last season.

“Due to personal reasons, Mr Rafa Benitez will leave his post as Dalian Pro FC head coach as of today,” read a Dalian statement on Sunday.

The club added that Benitez has “incorporated advanced football concepts from Europe into building the club’s first team.”

“Mr Benitez also was devoted to the youth training system, helping lay a solid foundation for the club’s development in the future. Dalian Pro FC would like to express heartfelt thanks to Mr Benitez and his team for their contribution,” the club said.

Benitez wrote on his personal website, “Unfortunately, like so many things in the last year, COVID-19 has changed our lives and our projects. From today, both my coaching staff and I will sadly no longer be coaching Dalian Professional FC.”

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

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