Benitez position already looks untenable
Published: 02.12.12 / Written by: David Gold
Whatever you think of Rafa Benitez, one has to admire his bravado.
This was a man who dared say ‘no’ to Roman Abramovich last year when offered the Chelsea job before Roberto di Matteo took it on. He is also a man who has repeatedly poked his finger in the eye of Jose Mourinho, metaphorically, with his former Liverpool side. And he has now walked into a job no-one would envy. Taking on Chelsea, on a clearly interim short term basis, with the fans vehemently against him months after their idol di Matteo won them the Champions League.
So Benitez certainly has cojones. But he also has a task which seems impossible. The berating he received from the Chelsea following ahead of last Sunday’s match with Manchester City was remarkable in its ferocity and sheer bloody mindedness. Few managers can have experienced such an unwelcome welcome. Even George Graham and Alex McLeish, taking on sides with whom their former teams had enjoyed fierce rivalries, did not find themselves met with such a chorus of disapproval. In their cases it was more muted disdain.
Graham held on thanks to some impressive results at first, but as soon as things started to go wrong, he was on borrowed time. For McLeish, he found his position untenable to start, having never inspired Aston Villa to any kind of form at all, and so his departure was inevitable from the start.
With Benitez, you suspect that given the Chelsea fans’ reaction to him, even if he does manage to improve results short term, he will still face the ire and anger of the supporters. You could well imagine, understandably, the fans giving any credit for any success Chelsea enjoy this season to di Matteo. On the other hand, if the campaign turns to failure, it will undoubtedly be the Liverpool man taking the flak and blame.
It is a harsh gig to take on. Benitez’s position is like a comedian who has walked on stage, attempted an introductory joke but found himself pelted with abuse. Even the most dignified and humorous response will not be enough. There does not seem to be a way for him to win over the fans’ support, and that is the problem. Unlike the unknown comedian walking into a tough crowd, Benitez is known to those he is trying to please, and they have no interest in hearing him out. The man who derided them for having plastic fans and undermined Mourinho has no place at Stamford Bridge for their proud fans.
Di Matteo found that even when he won he lost. So spare a thought for Benitez. At least he’ll get a decent pay off at the end of the season. Oh, hang on...