When Rafa Benitez left Tyneside, it felt as though Newcastle had lost more than just a manager, they lost the glue that was bonding the club and fans together.
There were raised eyebrows when he took a job at Dalian Yifang in the Chinese Super League, with the common assumption that he was simply too good to be managing there.
But things have not been going so well for the Geordie hero, with his club struggling in the league, and if his intention was to showcase his skills to would-be suitors in Europe, it has not gone according to plan thus far.
In fact, his current fortunes are very reminiscent of his time at Newcastle, with both recent records looking eerily similar.
Compare his first 14 games in charge at Dalian Yifang with his last 14 at Newcastle. He has won six of the 14 at each club, picking up 20 points in China, and 21 on Tyneside.
He has played a very similar, if not the same, formation at both clubs, with his new side scoring more than one goal in a game six times, compared to just seven with Newcastle.
Benitez’s side is third bottom in the form table, based on the previous six games, and has them looking over their shoulder, 14 points above the relegation places, and a whopping 27 points off an AFL Champions League Qualifying spot.
Considering the lower standard of Chinese Super League football, it would be fair to expect Rafa to have had a much bigger impact on his team.
Benitez’s current form will not be catching the eye of Europe’s top clubs
If any of Europe’s bigger sides have been monitoring the Spaniard’s progress since leaving England, they are not likely to be overly impressed.
While there is no suggestion of Rafa’s ability, it does make you wonder if we will ever see him managing at a top club in one of the world’s best leagues again.
Of course, under a new owner, there will always be a place for Rafa at Newcastle, and Toon fans would herald his future return as they did when Kevin Keegan came back.
With the current downward spiral in form – Dalian Yifang have taken just four points from the last 28 available – Benitez’s immediate thoughts must be on steadying the ship and ensuring the slump does not end in an unexpected drop from China’s top division.