May 22, 2013, 11:06 PM EDT
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.
Aug 22, 2014, 3:17 PM EDT
Birmingham City, 1860 Munich, Millwall, Nurnberg… it seems Brek Shea is a man in demand when it comes to his loan from Stoke City.
Aug 22, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT
The Bavarians added Robert Lewandowski, and look poised to lead again. Who are the favorites to emerge in the race for second?
Aug 22, 2014, 2:29 PM EDT
Matchweek 2 brings a few killer games including Everton v. Arsenal on Saturday and Manchester City v. Liverpool on Monday.
Aug 22, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT
From the early days in Italy, to the craziness of Man City and then back to AC Milan, here’s the timeline of Balotelli’s life so far.
Aug 22, 2014, 2:03 PM EDT
The 19-year-old American attacker’s only senior appearance for Bayern was a Champions League sub. That could change today.
Aug 22, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT
Probably not, but with Sevilla and Barcelona strengthening while Atletico deals with roster tumult, look for some changes near the top.
Aug 22, 2014, 12:46 PM EDT
PSV Eindhoven called the police, upping the ante on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Aug 22, 2014, 12:33 PM EDT
Where and how to watch every single PL game in Week 2, right here.
Aug 22, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT
A young Brazilian is the newest name linked with Louis van Gaal, while Manchester City could be selling a top young defender
Aug 22, 2014, 10:59 AM EDT
Jones wants to head to Chicago, and wants more money if he goes to New England.
Aug 22, 2014, 10:08 AM EDT
Nantes is off to another strong start, and Ale Bedoya’s club now stares down a match-up with Monaco.
Aug 22, 2014, 9:20 AM EDT
Labeling vile statements in text messages “friendly banter” has Cardiff in a frenzy, and looking for fresh consequences.
Aug 22, 2014, 8:50 AM EDT
Arseanl boss calls Everton an important test while praising Liverpool’s impending acquisition.
Aug 22, 2014, 8:16 AM EDT
The Reds were still sorting out Balotelli’s personality and commitment, and missed a deadline to have him play for the club this weekend.
Aug 22, 2014, 7:36 AM EDT
The 29-year-old Greek national teamer will try to rebuild his Premier League image after tough times in Manchester from 2006-08.
Aug 22, 2014, 2:13 AM EDT
LA’s loss is RSL’s gain at the top of our pecking order.
Aug 21, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
“Cubo” gets his first call from Miguel Herrera, while two established names stay in Europe.
Aug 21, 2014, 10:16 PM EDT
Everton will get answers this weekend against Arsenal, while it’s still too soon to tell when Barkley will return.
Aug 21, 2014, 9:26 PM EDT
Something for nothing? Vancouver swaps a spare part for one of the league’s more prolific assist men.
Aug 21, 2014, 6:42 PM EDT
They’re both stars, both taking elective leave from their national team. That’s where the similarities end between Donovan and Howard.
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