RAFA BENITEZ will NOT be taking over as Celtic’s new manager, despite reports insisting the Spaniard was being lined up as Neil Lennon’s replacement.

The former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss has quit his post at Chinese Super League side Dalian Professional with a year still to run on his contract, as CQN reported.

Benitez, 60, parted company with the club by mutual consent – and sparked speculation he could be on Celtic’s radar.

However, Spanish journalist Guillem Balague, who is close to the veteran gaffer, played down a Sunday Mirror report that his fellow-countryman was on his way to Glasgow.

He tweeted: “Rafa Benitez to Celtic? There was interest in him but not an option today He’s going to rest for a bit, despite offers (from Germany, also a national side…).”

The possibility of Benitez arriving in Glasgow to take on Steven Gerrard – his Liverpool skipper when the Anfield outfit won the Champions League on penalties against AC Milan in 2005 – was so intriguing bookmakers Paddy Power suspended betting.

The much-travelled boss is back with his family in England and has also been linked with a return to Newcastle with Steve Bruce coming under continued pressure with the St James’s Park outfit crashing out of the FA Cup yesterday with a 2-0 loss at Aston Villa. It was the Tyneside club’s 10th game without a win.

Benitez will return to the dug-out at some stage, but if Balague is accurate it will not be at the Hoops.

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