Rafa Benitez has emerged as one of the front-runners to become the next Derby County manager – with the bookies at least.
Punters have backed the former Newcastle United manager to make a surprise return to the Championship after Phillip Cocu was sacked on Saturday.
Derby currently lie bottom of the Championship but Sheikh Khaled, who previously attempted to buy Newcastle, looks set to become the club’s new owner after his takeover was approved by the English Football League.
Perhaps, with this is mind, Benitez has emerged as a contender with punters and the Dalian Pro manager is now the third favourite with Sky Bet and Bet Victor to be Derby’s next boss at 4/1. Only John Terry and Wayne Rooney, the club’s caretaker boss and the bookies’ favourite, have shorter odds.
Sheikh Khaled’s previous interest in Newcastle became public as Benitez entered the final weeks of his contract at St James’ Park in the summer of 2019.
The Spaniard admitted he was ‘waiting’ and ‘asking for clarity’ but it ‘wasn’t clear at any time’, and optimistic talk from the Middle East soon went quiet.
Benitez is currently in charge of Dalian Pro and after a turbulent, coronavirus-disrupted season, the 60-year-old kept his side up following a play-off win against Shijiazhuang Ever Bright.
While Benitez’s family are still based in the North West, it is worth noting that Benitez tends to honour contracts and the Dalian manager signed a two-and-a-half year deal when he was appointed by the Chinese Super League side in July, 2019.
Benitez has also repeatedly spoken about the ‘project’ at Dalian and creating a legacy at the club.