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How can Rafa Benítez represent Chelsea after a rant like this?

Feb 27, 2013, 7:05 PM EDT

This type of rant has come to define Rafa Benítez. The last time we heard one, his Inter Milan side had just beaten Conglese club TP Mazembe in the Club World Cup. It was an occasion when he chose not to celebrate players’ achievements but to deride detractors who had criticized his management of the club. Less than a week later, Benítez was done, Leonardo was brought in, and Inter — the reigning league, cup, and European champions — salvaged a Champions League spot in Italy.

These missives became common in Benítez’s final day at Liverpool. Whether he was hitting out at Manchester United, Chelsea, Alex Ferguson or Liverpool’s owners, Benítez used his limited successes as reason to roll out his resumé and justify his greatness. Now that resumé, a distinguished one that includes a Champions League title, is in danger of becoming an afterthought in the story of a man whose career was undone by a lack of humility.

Today, Chelsea won at Middlesbrough 2-0 in the FA Cup. Boro is a second-tier club in England. The win was more obligatory than triumphant, but in an act of farce, Benítez used the opportunity to make a statement to Chelsea fans. Those banners you make? The dissent you offer? The frustration you have that your club replaced an icon (Roberto Di Matteo) with me, somebody who faded at Liverpool before failing at Inter? All of that is completely unjustifiable, in his eyes.

Welcome to sports, Mr. Benítez. Fans voice their displeasure, especially when the team you inherited is struggling to maintain its Champions League position after showing sights of title contention at the beginning of the season. The team was too flawed to maintain that pursuit, but since being brought in November, it’s unclear Benítez has done anything to improve the team. Having been pulled into a fight for their top four lives, all indications hint they’re worse.

I can only assume Benítez doesn’t realize this; else, he wouldn’t have given this speech. Until Benítez accomplishes something at Stamford Bridge, he has no basis for saying fan criticism is unjustified. And based on the “stupid plastic flags” jab he lobbed at Chelsea fans while managing Liverpool, he can’t expect the benefit of the doubt. If he does, he’s delusional.

But Benítez’s is a strange, self-defined world where none of his failures impact his image. To him, he’s the guy that won titles in Spain. He’s the man who won Champions League at Liverpool. Every opportunity he gets, he reminds us of his greatness, just as he did today. Chelsea fans should have welcomed him as a savior instead of a man of last resort.

In his mind, he’s not the guy that lost Liverpool’s top four spot, something from which the Reds have yet to recover. He’s not the man who ran José Mourinho’s Inter Milan squad into the ground. And he’s not the man who has failed to make any progress with one of the richest squads in the world.

This is a team that still has Petr Cech. They have Ashley Cole and David Luiz. There are players like Juan Mata and Eden Hazard in attack, as well as the slew of complementary pieces you’d expected when you’re coaching one of the most affluent clubs in the world. Do all the pieces fit? Perhaps not, but when you’re a man of Benítez’s self-appointed status, surely you can whip up something. No man worth the resumé he keeps repeating would let this club drift this far off course.

As much as any fans have a right to complain, Chelsea’s do. And as much as any manager in the world should have refrained from using a 2-0 victory over a lower-level side as a platform for outrage, Benítez should have.

Today’s rant is the strangest moment in the now absurd career of Rafa Benítez. Roman Abramovich should reconsider whether he wants this to be the face of his club, even if it’s only for three more months.

  1. surly1n1nd1anapol1s - Feb 27, 2013 at 10:22 PM

    The club and manager deserve one another. He’s the management version of John Terry.

  2. nycooper80 - Feb 28, 2013 at 2:22 AM

    Management version of John Terry??! I don’t see any comparison personally. Maybe Sven Goran Ericksson for the bedroom antics but Rafa. Don’t think so.

    Anyway it was the owner’s decision to get shot of Di Matteo (who’s management career was about as non-existant as Brednan Rodger’s brief stint) but was nevertheless a popular choice. Losing 3-0 to Juventus and a stuttering League form spelled the end of Di Matteo. Pep wasn’t available so Rafa was drafted in as an “Interim” manager so I don’t see why he is being derided to the point he is. Torres is a shadow of his former self, Drogba is gone so there is no out and out Striker other than Demba Ba who has some semblance of form in that role.

    Chelsea really haven’t replaced Carvalho, Essien and Makelele, hence the CMF area being a little bit light weight unless Mikel (not World Class) plays there. Terry has suffered from injuries and David Luiz isn’t exaclty the most reliable CB Chelsea have had over the years when it comes to defending.

    Mata, Hazard are great but Chelsea have lacked an in form World Class striker(s) to finish the chances off. In comparison United and City have an embarassment of riches in the goal scoring area, as well as a more stable team and management so IMO the League table is accurate.

    So, expensively assembled team/squad but not the powerful, 2 great players in each position Chelsea of a by-gone-era under Mourinho. Man City are closer to the end product in that respect while Man U are performing better than the sum of their parts and picking up points even when they play badly with Van Persie at the top of the goal scoring charts. Even Spurs have strengthened well over the years with Bale in great form.

    To be perfectly honest Rafa’s heart is at Liverpool so he is only doing the Chelsea job to earn a pay cheque so people should get off his back. He will hopefully have another more stable opportunity where he can get on with the job in peace. I think he has every right to be annoyed with mobs not supporting the team.

    In this day in age of armchair pundits and bloggers with ADD and managers being scruitinzed under a microscope it’s no wonder Chelsea are having a Manager merry-go-round. Well best hope Mourinho returns because Pep’s gone to Bayern (wise choice) and Rafa will surely leave at the end of the season and go somewhere else where he can get on with the job that will give him more than 3 months in charge to prove himself. No man needs or deserves that kind of harassment. Currently Man United and City are more stable and have stronger squads which is reflected in the league table. Out of Spurs and Arsenal maybe Spurs have an outside chance at catching Chelsea but Top 4 is more or less guaranteed so I don’t know what all the fuss is about.

    I stopped taking the article seriously after the author started to criticize Rafa’s last year at Liverpool which was untenable and also at Inter where Moratti pulled the plug on finances and he was left to rot with an injury ravaged, ageing team. Mourinho’s Porto, Chelsea and Real were all fully backed and financed. Mourinho is a great manager but Rafa matched a stronger Chelsea team led by Mourinho, while he was at Liverpool with his astute tactics and a fraction of the money so he is also a great manager. Any manager that can win the La Liga twice with teams other than Real Madrid or Barcelona is again a genius! It is definitely not an even playing field there.

    There’s been talk of Moyes becoming the new Chelsea manager. What are your thoughts there?

    • mvktr2 - Feb 28, 2013 at 10:14 AM

      Moyes stays in Everton.

  3. unclemosesgreen - Feb 28, 2013 at 8:03 AM

    Even if this is the final straw for Abramovich, and let’s be honest – it should be, he really ought to let Rafa twist in the wind for another 5 days. If Rafa thought Chelsea’s faithful were in full throat against him already, well, he hasn’t seen anything yet. I hope there’s a lot of extra security if he takes the sideline on Saturday against West Brom at Stamford Bridge.

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