May 22, 2013, 11:06 PM EST
I’ve never met the man, but over the course of the last six months, Rafa Benítez and I have had a ridiculously rocky relationship. When, seven months ago, he reentered my life, I was still judging him on the past, bitter at the Jim Jones act he’d pulled on all my Liverpool-loving friends. Then he gave me new reason to disdain his present, a throbbing mass of misanthropy pulsating in Roberto Di Matteo’s shoes. Yet as we sit here, on the cusp of world soccer’s silly seat, I’m forced to admit: I can see why another club would give the man a chance.
I wouldn’t have said the same in November. Not that I like going over old ground, but the obvious needs to be reiterated. He was the one that steered Liverpool out of the old Top Four. Inter took a chance on him in the wake of Mourinho, and Benítez was a disaster. By the time Benítez arrived at Stamford Bridge, he was three-and-a-half years removed from his last successful season.
Maybe some of that mojo was at play early on. Chelsea dipped. When he took over, they were within four points of first, but that didn’t last for long. Impressive performances (at home against Aston Villa) were coupled with beguiling failures (at Southampton). Top four became a battle.
That, however, was the Chelsea of winter. Come spring, the Blues looked like a solid squad. Fans might debate whether they were playing to their potential, but the team had at least stabilized. Ultimately, qualifying for Champions League wasn’t a problem, and the club added Europa League.
Now linked linked with a number of job across Europe, Benítez gets to reap the fruits of that revival. If Carlo Ancelotti leaves Paris Saint-Germain, Benítez will be in frame. He’ll be a candidate at Málaga, a job he seems unlikely to take, and whenever there’s an opening at the Bernabeu, Benítez will be linked with Real Madrid. Even in Naples, where Napoli is saying goodbye to Walter Mazzarri, Benítez’s name is being bandied about.
There’s a good discussion to be had as to how much Benítez actually helped Chelsea. You can also debate whether, at this point in his career, Benítez is a good fit for clubs with as many aspirations as Real Madrid, Paris Saint Germain, or Chelsea. I’m skeptical of both, but the fact that there’s a debate at all speaks to how far Benítez has come in the last three months.
After his first days at Chelsea, Benítez looked like he was writing another disappointing chapter to compelling, confounding career. Now the saga seems ready for a whole new act. Our misanthrope’s not going away any time soon.
Feb 28, 2015, 2:00 PM EST
Koeman’s Saints have scored just once in their last five matches. Can they recover and remain in the top six?
Feb 28, 2015, 2:00 PM EST
Facey, 20, was the captain of Man City’s highly-touted Elite Development Squad and had been on trial with NYCFC since early January.
Feb 28, 2015, 1:30 PM EST
Recaps, analysis, videos and more from the six PL games on Saturday.
Feb 28, 2015, 12:52 PM EST
With an edge on Man City in the UCL and second place to Real Madrid in La Liga, Barca has a chance to do big things if it continues to click.
Feb 28, 2015, 12:33 PM EST
With RVP out injured and Falcao firing blanks, surely Rooney should remain up front…
Feb 28, 2015, 12:10 PM EST
The giant Englishman scored less than a minute after subbing on for Mame Diouf, and Stoke stayed in the top half.
Feb 28, 2015, 12:09 PM EST
Saints fire another blank, as Baggies break them down.
Feb 28, 2015, 12:03 PM EST
The three points moved Swansea ahead of West Ham for eight in the Premier League table.
Feb 28, 2015, 11:57 AM EST
Rooney’s double sees off a stubborn Sunderland side to cement United’s spot in the top four.
Feb 28, 2015, 11:55 AM EST
Villa’s 22 points are even with Burnley and QPR, but their goal differential is the worst of the three.
Feb 28, 2015, 11:40 AM EST
Mark the date as the moment Sam Allardyce’s long shot dreams of European football for West Ham all but died.
Feb 28, 2015, 11:34 AM EST
TheRevierderby was all Borussia Dortmund, which keeps climbing the Bundesliga table after a horrible start to the season.
Feb 28, 2015, 11:15 AM EST
Murray scores twice, gets red card in eventful outing at Upton Park.
Feb 28, 2015, 10:55 AM EST
Goals are in short supply. See if they arrive in the second half by watching live, here.
Feb 28, 2015, 9:44 AM EST
Sone Aluko and Gaston Ramirez move last week’s hero Dame N’Doye to the bench, as the Tigers look to put together a three-match winning streak.
Feb 28, 2015, 9:39 AM EST
Danny Ings will lead the charge for Burnley, which has controversially non-suspended Ashley Barnes in the Starting XI.
Feb 28, 2015, 9:39 AM EST
Eagles soar past Hammers a Murray scores twice, gets red card.
Feb 28, 2015, 9:35 AM EST
Emmanuel Riviere gets a start for Newcastle, with Ayoze Perez heading for the bench. Cancer-battler Jonas Gutierrez is back in the 18 as well.
Feb 28, 2015, 9:27 AM EST
Can the Baggies beat high-flying Saints? Watch live online, right here.
Feb 28, 2015, 9:08 AM EST
Can the Red Devils stay in the top four with a win? Watch live online, right here.
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