Rafa Benitez frustrated with lack of understanding in CSL

Former Liverpool and Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez has laid bare the difficulties foreign coaches face working in the Chinese Super League (CSL): a lack of understanding of the game among local players.

Benitez saw his Dalian Pro side lose 2-0 to Tianjin Teda in the first leg of a play-off on Monday and the Spaniard was left frustrated at not being able to influence the outcome as he would if he were coaching in Europe or elsewhere.

"When you work with a team in Europe, it's totally different to when you work with a team in China," the 60-year-old said.

"In Europe, the understanding of the game is different and here it is more difficult... So it's not what you want to do or what you can do - it's what your players can do."

Benitez is one of numerous high-profile coaches brought in by Chinese clubs over the last decade to help lift the standard of the game in a country desperate to establish itself as a player on the global scene.

Chinese teams often rely heavily on highly paid foreign stars or, increasingly, on naturalised players who have played in the CSL for five years and have acquired citizenship.

The quality of locally developed players remains low, however, especially outside the leading three or four teams who have stockpiled the best talent from a shallow pool.

For Benitez, who was hired on a contract worth a reported £12 million (S$21.3m) per year, the frustration at seeing his side struggle through a lack of tactical and technical ability is significant.

Dalian will take on Tianjin in the second leg of their play-off on Saturday, in a battle that will see them finish no higher than ninth in this year's standings.

"I suppose that we will have a chance for sure, but it will not be easy because the other team was doing well," said Benitez of the impending second leg. - REUTERS