He won the Champions League in his first season as manager of a new club, an FA Cup… a Community Shield and the European Super Cup and now it has been decided that former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is the man to guide Chelsea back to their ‘former glory days’ after the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo after the ‘Blues’ won just 1 of 5 games in November. That’s a bit ridiculous isn’t it – just 6 months ago the club was celebrating winning Europe’s most prestigious domestic title as well as the greatest cup competition in the world under the guidance of Di Matteo, yet owner Roman Abramovich suddenly felt that the Italian wasn’t the man for the job just because they hadn’t guaranteed their place in the next round of the Champions League and were only third in the Premier League. The sacking was a bizarre and unpopular decision but the appointment of Benitez was incomprehensible. The Russian billionaire must have been extremely drunk on some of his country’s famous vodka while making these decisions!
Just 5 years ago Benitez said he would never manage Chelsea because of his respect for Liverpool and yet now he couldn’t wait to take the job. Football managers are almost as hypocritical as politicians aren’t they! However it seems as though the only reason he has gone to manage Chelsea is to hang out with their rather large Spanish contingent as there aren’t many in the north west at the moment. Fernando Torres, Juan Mata, Cesar Azpilicueta and Oriel Romeu are all citizens of the greatest international football team at the time of writing and this must have been the major influence for the 52 year-old’s decision to take up the reins at Stamford Bridge. When he was manager of ‘The Reds,’ Benitez was the man who brought Torres over to this country and immediately made him a favourite of the Kopites, but his departure Anfield coincided with his fellow Spaniard’s form going down the drain and his injury count rising rather rapidly. Torres has not been the same player since and one of the conspiracies behind Benitez’s appointment is the hope that he can get the striker playing like he used to. But even Benitez seems to have written the striker off, saying that he may never be the player he was at Liverpool due to his lengthy list of problems – not something the fans or the owner wanted to hear!
If he thinks Torres will never be the same player again then it will be interesting to see what Benitez does in the forthcoming transfer window to address Chelsea’s striker shortage. His transfer policy at Liverpool was inconsistent to say the least – from 2004-2009 he bought 76 players and spent just under £230 million. This included the acquisition of now-Anfield favourites such as Torres, Dirk Kuyt, Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia as well as current players Daniel Agger, Lucas, Glen Johnson, Pepe Reina and Martin Skrtel but he also invested in some absolute donkeys – £8 million was spent on Alberto Riera, £20 million on Alberto Acquilani and £19 million on Robbie Keane – while he also brought in players such as Andrea Dossena, Josemi, Charles Itjande and Nabile El Zhar who would do well to make it into teams in the EvoStik Southern Division nowadays. The fact is that Chelsea need a decent striker either to play alongside Torres or take his place in the team, which will hopefully give him a royal kick up the backside and force him to start actually trying again. At the moment Falcao is the player linked with the Blues and I think his acquisition will be hugely beneficial for them. With 22 goals for club and country already this season he seems the obvious affordable choice but the question is whether Benitez will feel it necessary to invest in him or try someone else who isn’t as good, or just someone Spanish with a cool name.
Another of Benitez’s favourite traits as Liverpool manager was to insult other managers for no apparent reason and declare a verbal war on them, with famous examples being Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. This time around it is not other bosses he has been criticising but players currently playing – he has been in charge for less than 2 weeks and he has already told David Beckham he is ‘too slow’ to return to the Premiership and his whole team that they aren’t fit enough to win matches. He needs to calm down and focus on the job in hand rather than fight with people he will never win an argument with.
So, is Benitez the right man for the Chelsea job? I don’t really think I need to answer that one. The real question is who is and I feel there is only 1 answer. As a manager he has a 51.41% winning ratio as a manager, just 0.6% less than Benitez, has won a Champions League and an FA Cup and is a Blues legend. The man I feel should be in charge of Chelsea FC is… Roberto Di Matteo. He did nothing wrong when he was manager – everyone has bad patches, Sir Alex Ferguson would have been out of the Manchester United Job a long time ago if he was sacked due to a poor run of form – and won Chelsea their first ever European trophy and is loved by the fans. The Russian needs to get off his high horse, admit he is wrong and bring back the man with whom Blues fans have fallen in love with.