Dalian Pro striker on working with Rafa Benítez and being confined to a Chinese hotel for two months with barely a day off
Salomón Rondón remembers his hairs standing on end when, wearing Newcastle’s No 9 shirt for the first time, he ran on to the St James’ Park pitch. He only had half an hour as a substitute to try and turn things around against Spurs on the opening day of the 2018-19 season, but everything just seemed right. “I felt at this moment that this is my place and I have to be here for a long time,” he says. “I knew I was only on a year’s loan but I just thought: ‘I have to do my best to stay here.’”
Most would agree that he did, winning the player of the year award and being directly involved in almost half the side’s league goals. So the fact he is speaking via a video call from a hotel in Dalian, where he has essentially been detained for more than two months, suggests life has taken a few turns. One of them is Covid-19, of course, and it required that the first stage of the Chinese Super League campaign was contested between sides holed up in the same lodgings. Rondón’s employers, Dalian Professional, have been living alongside their seven rivals in Group A since mid-July, permitted to leave only for matches and training.