Rafa Benitez: We’ll sing what we want!
Chelsea will start next season with a new manager – who’d have thought it? Rafa Benitez’s reign will come to an end in May and he will go down in history as one of the most unpopular premiership managers ever. Following his post-match outburst after the Middlesborough victory, a number of key questions are raised. Why was he appointed? What was he thinking about going for the Chelsea fans and board in such a direct manner? What can Chelsea achieve in the rest of this season, another characterised by scandal and instability? And most importantly, what does the future hold for Chelsea Football Club?
Chelsea appear to have it all; the trophies, the players, the postcode and yet even the most successful seasons (in the post Mourinho era) appear to be tarnished with a feeling of betrayal and instability. The appointment of Benitez following the departure of Di Matteo was met with shock in the footballing world and disgust amongst the Chelsea fans. The man who had been the thorn in the side of Jose and led Liverpool to Champions League glory was now in charge, replacing both a club legend in RDM, but also the man who just 6 months earlier had led the Blues to their greatest moment in the club’s history. I don’t think anyone will truly understand why this transition was undertaken, but a certain £50million man would appear to be behind it.
Fernando Torres and Rafa Benitez
The 2012/13 season has finally seen a turn in how Chelsea fans view their Spanish forward. The hope that Torres could rekindle his Liverpool form appears to have vanished. RDM had the luxury of picking Drogba last season, which he did in many big fixtures, including that night in Munich. Fast forward 3 months and there’s only one striker at club – time to step up Fernando. Although he does start to score a few goals, the magic is still not there, and he gradually cuts a more frustrated figure out on the pitch.
For a Russian billionaire who has invested £50million in an asset, it is naturally his desire to see this investment appear successful – but at what cost? The cost appeared to be the head of Di Matteo. It is impossible to ignore the fact that the European Champions were going out at the group stage of the Champions League, but even so, to sack RDM was an incredibly harsh decision. So back to the misfiring investment, what is the best way to turn its fortunes? Well in the case of Torres, it would be to employ the manager with which he enjoyed his greatest period of success. However, to appease the desires of his number 9 Roman created internal fractions and mass crowd protests. Maybe he had gone a step too far?
Benitez has not done a terrible job at Chelsea, far from it. But his history meant that the only way he would be accepted at the Bridge was to win every match and get Torres firing. A combination of a languid Spanish striker and a number of disappointing results (including the League Cup semi final defeat) has meant that realistically his position became untenable. Saying this, Rafa-rant part II was completely unexpected. The man with the thick skin had cracked and in a big way. One assumes that either he had got out the wrong side of the bed, or more likely that he had been told earlier that week he should look for a new job next season. Even so, has Rafa reduced his chances of receiving another job due to his lack of composure?
The Press Conference
Speaking to a number of Chelsea fans, there is a large amount of feeling to suggest that what Benitez said in his press conference was correct. However, the politics of football dictates that no manager can publicly criticise the board or the fans, an achievement which Rafa completed in a matter of minutes. Clearly it is an insult to give a Champions League winning manager the tag of ‘interim,’ but the truth is, his recent record had been mixed at best.
One thing that is for sure, if it wasn’t already, is that Rafa Benitez’s turbulent spell as Chelsea manager will end in May at the very latest. Therefore, what can Chelsea achieve in the remaining 2 months of this year and who can possibly handle the pressure and demands of managing the Blues?
Chelsea should already have the Club World Championship and League Cup under their belts; quite frankly its embarrassing that they don’t. However, the season could still end with a 2nd place league finish, the FA Cup and the Europa league. Even all three would not mark the season as a success, but more a case of damage limitation. Another thing that Chelsea fans would love to see would be for Frank Lampard to reach 203 goals and become the clubs all-time goal scorer. A new 2 year contract wouldn’t go amiss either. Realistically, the away tie at United could quell their Cup run, but a high league finish and European success are very much on the cards. If these can be achieved, one would hope Rafa could leave the Blues on relatively amicable terms and set them up for a strong season next year.
So, onto next year then, what can we expect; the million pound question I know! In Hazard, Oscar and Mata, Chelsea have three of the most exciting young talents in world football. With such quality in the squad, success will never be far around the corner, but the problem with club has always been the infrastructure and hierarchy. There’s only one man the fans want to see at the helm, a certain Special One. However, there is a sense that Mourinho and Abramovich would only agree to a re-marriage on their own terms. These terms would naturally revolve around power and influence within the club, of which both men would want sovereign control.
If its not to be Jose then it’s anyone’s bet as to who will be in charge next season. Pelligrini, Lowe, Poyet, Zola; these are all names that have loosely been linked with the poisoned seat. The manager merry-go-round has finally caught up with the Chelsea board, with managers no longer viewing the European Champions as a viable career move.
The future of the club should be the focus of this piece, but quite simply nobody knows what to expect. As such, all we can really comment upon are negative events of the past and merely speculate (which when talking about Chelsea is purely guess-work) about the future. With a club lacking any loyalty and characterised by scandal and volatility, upcoming seasons are impossible to predict. However, as long as Roman stays engaged with his project and buys some of the hottest European talent, Chelsea will be a top European side. The question is, can they return to being a ‘club’, with players playing and fans signing for a manager adored by all? The only man who can instigate this currently manages in Madrid, but for how much longer? It’s a shame to end on two questions, but at the same time fitting for any discussion on Chelsea Football Club; a club that in recent years has provided more questions than answers.