Benitez facing impossible task as Abramovich nears decisive point
Published: 07.03.13 / Written by: David Gold
Rafa Benitez’s rant after Chelsea’s win over Middlesbrough was unexpected but certainly understandable.
Benitez tore into the minority of supporters who have been constantly barracking him and calling for his head. It was shocking, and I listened to it driving in the car, and dangerously distracted from the dangers of the road by what Benitez was saying.
It started quite mildly, actually, Benitez reeling off a list of his successes. "'I have been in charge in football for 26 years. I have won the Champions League, won the Fifa Club World Cup, the FA Cup, the Italian Super Cup, the Spanish league twice, nine trophies, all the trophies you can win at club level.”
So what is your point, Rafa? I wondered. "A group of fans, they are not doing any favours for the team when they are signing and wasting time preparing banners.”
So that was the point, apparently. But why now? You’ve just won against Middlesbrough! Although it was hard to dispute that Benitez certainly had a valid point. But then Benitez went a step further still. "It's because someone made a mistake. The put my title 'interim manager', and I will leave at the end of the season, so they don't need to waste time with me.”
Benitez was behaving last night as though he could not care a less about his future at the club, making fun of his interim tag, saying he would choose the team he thought was best, and that it does not matter as he is “interim, as they say.”
Woah! This was Benitez in full attack mode, and brought back memories of the anti-Manchester United tirade of his penultimate season as Liverpool coach. Benitez was certainly justified in most of his complaints. The fans were in the wrong, not giving him a chance. Even though they were understandably opposed to the ex Liverpool coach taking the reins, the kind of personal abuse he has had to take is unjustifiable. Express anger and opposition, fine, but to actively undermine the team whilst attacking the manager?
And what of the club? Benitez was right. They have to take responsibility for making him an ‘interim’ coach. It has been made oh so clear that Benitez is not a long term appointment, not someone they see being at the club for too long .And Benitez was right to point out that he has been fatally undermined by that tag of being ‘interim’. But worse than the name given to his post is the reality that it reflects a lack of faith from up high. And that lack of faith is not unique to Benitez. Almost every Chelsea manager has suffered from that same lack of faith in their abilities to run the club the way Roman Abramovich wants it to be.
Abramovich, if he wants his investment to be worthwhile, has to make a decision. He cannot constantly overrule his managers. Sure, a manager does not need to be all powerful as Jose Mourinho likes to be, and they can give up some responsibilities to a director of football. But both should be secure in their roles and have faith that they are a long term appointment. Abramovich must find someone and make them that long term appointment, unless he wants to do the job himself.
Of course Abramovich did try to bring in a long term appointment last season in Andre Villas Boas. He did not want to fire the Portuguese, but felt like he had no choice, and made it very clear that it was the fault of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry that Villas Boas had lost his job. Abramovich has got rid of Drogba, but Lampard and Terry remain. Villas Boas is now at Tottenham, who look down with a wry smile no doubt on what is happening at Stamford Bridge. Abramovich may wonder whether he made the wrong choice – maybe he should have fired Lampard and Terry last year, rather than the Portuguese. Bringing back Jose Mourinho this summer would strengthen those players. Chelsea have some wonderful players in Juan Mata, Oscar, Eden Hazard, David Luiz and Gary Cahill. They are the future, and deserve better. Abramovich needs to definitively cut loose from the past if Chelsea are to progress in the future.