Rafael Benitez has insisted he did not leave Newcastle United for the money but wants to move on from talking about his former club.

The ex-Liverpool and Real Madrid manager was much-loved by the fans on Tyneside but failed to agree a new contract at St. James' Park and left for Chinese side Dalian Yifang in June 2019. 

Newcastle United v Leicester City - Premier League

Benitez had a long-running dispute with club owner Mike Ashley over the direction of the club and the manager's eventual exit was somewhat acrimonious.

In an interview with the ​Daily Mail back in July, ​Newcastle owner Ashley claimed that: "It was money first, Rafa, then the club last. He took the totally soft option, took the money and went to China. That disappoints me."

Benitez has hit back at those suggestions, pointing out that he would not have stayed at the club when they were relegated to the Championship in 2016.

In an interview with FourFourTwo (issue 307) Benitez said: "I wouldn’t have stayed in the Championship and said no to massive offers if I was just thinking about that [money]...I waited until the last minute this summer [to make a decision on his future]". 

Benitez was wary of being respectful to his former club and their fans, adding: "I don’t want to create more mess around the situation by talking more about it.

“I don’t want the fans thinking, ‘Rafa is talking too much about Newcastle’. Now’s the time to move forward.”

Rafael Benitez

The 59-year-old Madrid-born manager is adored by the Toon Army after guiding Newcastle to the Championship title in 2017. The following season, the former ​Napoli boss helped Newcastle to a 13th-placed finish before being succeeded by current manager Steve Bruce in the summer of 2019. 

Newcastle remain the subject of a ​proposed takeover bid from Peter Kenyon and GACP Sports after formulating a four-year payment plan which satisfied Ashley's valuation of £300m. 

Meanwhile Newcastle return to ​Premier League action after the international break as they travel to Villa Park to take on ​Aston Villa before hosting ​Manchester City at St. James' Park five days later.