Skip to content

Full circle: Misantrope’s revival could land Benítez in Paris, Madrid, or Naples

May 22, 2013, 11:06 PM EDT

Chelsea's interim manager Benitez looks on before their English Premier League soccer match against Southampton at St. Mary's Stadium in Southampton

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.

Latest Posts
  1. MLS Snapshot: Real Salt Lake 0-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

    Apr 18, 2015, 11:39 PM EDT

    Darren Mattocks, Vancouver Whitecaps Darren Mattocks, Vancouver Whitecaps

    Two red cards for RSL, a late goal for Vancouver and the Whitecaps just keep winning.

  2. WATCH: The 2 Robbies answer the question, “Should Chelsea worry about entertaining?”

    Apr 18, 2015, 10:12 PM EDT

    Robbie Earle & Robbie Mustoe, The 2 Robbies Robbie Earle & Robbie Mustoe, The 2 Robbies

    Do the top teams have a responsibility to entertain, or should they look to win at all costs, no matter how boring it may be?

  3. MLS Snapshot: Columbus Crew SC 3-0 Orlando City SC

    Apr 18, 2015, 9:29 PM EDT

    Federico Higuain, Columbus Crew SC Federico Higuain, Columbus Crew SC

    Crew SC are going to be a really, really scary team once they get going. They picked up a great deal of steam on Saturday night.

  4. Bale, Modric pick up injuries, could miss Real Madrid’s Champions League second leg

    Apr 18, 2015, 6:58 PM EDT

    Cristiano Ronaldo & Gareth Bale, Real Madrid CF Cristiano Ronaldo & Gareth Bale, Real Madrid CF

    Not the ideal time for a pair of key players to go down in the same game, four days before a CL quarterfinal second leg.

  5. Promotion Watch: Watford lead the newly reconfigured (again) Championship race

    Apr 18, 2015, 5:58 PM EDT

    Watford v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship Getty Images

    New week, same story, new teams on top, same old excitement — the Championship is truly amazing this year.

  6. La Liga & Serie A roundup: Messi scores No. 400, Barca maintain lead; Juve still good

    Apr 18, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez & Neymar, FC Barcelona Getty Images

    It was an historic day for Messi, as Barca inch closer to the league tile. Elsewhere, Juve remind everyone Serie A is all theirs.

  7. Premier League Sunday preview: Can Spurs, Man City find hope versus Newcastle, West Ham?

    Apr 18, 2015, 4:42 PM EDT

    A pair of Premier League matches are ready for your Sunday viewing pleasure, and take note that one features a different broadcast channel.

  8. Bundesliga wrap: BVB, Bayern, Bayer win; USMNT players split points

    Apr 18, 2015, 4:14 PM EDT

    FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-FRANKFURT-MOENCHENGLADBACH Getty Images

    Seventy-seven percent of this weekend’s Bundesliga results are in the books, and Germany is still waiting for its first upset.

  9. VIDEO: Rooney says Manchester United was unlucky, crowns Chelsea champion

    Apr 18, 2015, 3:56 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney felt his team did enough to top Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, but the score line says otherwise.

  10. Three things we learned from Chelsea’s win vs. Manchester United

    Apr 18, 2015, 2:36 PM EDT

    Shaw's superb display caught the eye. Getty Images

    Here’s what we learned from Chelsea’s narrow win over United.

  11. Arsenal 2-1 Reading: Alexis helps Gunners clinch FA Cup final berth

    Apr 18, 2015, 2:13 PM EDT

    Arsenal v Reading - FA Cup Semi-Final Getty Images

    Arsenal had 71 percent possession as late as the 80th minute, but the score remained deadlocked at one.

  12. VIDEO: Pearson thrilled with Leicester win, but can’t let foot off gas

    Apr 18, 2015, 1:25 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Hear what the Foxes’ boss had to say about Leicester’s big win.

  13. Crystal Palace 0-2 West Bromwich Albion: Morrison, Gardner lead Baggies (video)

    Apr 18, 2015, 11:59 AM EDT

    Crystal Palace v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    Palace’s table charge is momentarily halted, as Alan Pardew’s boys sit 11th with 42 points.

Featured video

Hazard seals victory for Chelsea