May 27, 2013, 8:28 PM EST
Most Chelsea fans saw a bit of good news hit their Twitter timelines on Monday, with a picture being send around social media marking the end of the club’s Rafa Benítez era. Though some fans eventually warmed to Benítez, the vast majority were either conflicted or antagonistic, so although they knew their time of conflict would soon end, proof of its passing would have been met with relief.
At the same time, Napoli fans were forced to embrace a reality of an uncertain future, their club having officially welcomed the controversial Spaniard as their new head coach. For a team who finished second in Italy and have reason to hope they team can push on, today’s must have been sobering news.
Word of Benítez’s move to Naples had been circulating for some time, but until Benítez finished his responsibilities with Chelsea’s brief U.S. tour, Napoli supporters could try to convince themselves the deal would fall through. However, after this weekend’s match at Yankee Stadium, all that was left was to dot i’s and cross t’s. Benítez was destined to replace Walter Mazzarri.
And with this image of Benítez shaking hands with Napoli President Aurelio Di Laurentiis, the tenuous transition finally begins.
I’ve made my newfound ambivalence toward Benítez known, but for new visitors who don’t want to go back through the PST archive, I’ll reiterate: I feel as if Benítez has earned himself another chance, one that shouldn’t require him resorting to a ‘take what I can get’ attitude. I’m not sure I felt the same before he was fortunate to find a role in West London.
He underperformed at Chelsea, Inter Milan, and in his last days at Liverpool, but over the last three months at Stamford Bridge, he showed the qualities of a man capable of forging a stable united. Were I at Málaga and looking to replace Manuel Pellegrini, I’d strongly consider him. He might work well at a place like Schalke, when he could take a talented team and establish a foundation that would address inconsistencies. Among club who don’t have obvious job openings, places like Marseille, Sevilla, Lazio, Hamburg would also be a fit for a boss with Benítez’s qualities, and if it wasn’t for the circumstances of Benítez’s past, clubs like Everton and Valencia would also fit nicely onto that list.
Napoli, however, is a very peculiar case. The departing manager, Walter Mazzarri, played almost exclusively three at the back, employing an attractive style that leveraged the abilities of Edinson Cavani, Marek Hamsik, Goran Pendev and Blerim Dzemaili to pick opponents apart, often in transition. In contrast to Benítez’s style, Napoli’s is not one you would readily call controlling or robust. Their’s was a more open game.
With Mazzarri having moved to Inter, Napoli’s style is going to change. And if the Neopolitans lose Cavani, they’ll have to reload, a process in which Benítez is likely to have great say. As opposed to a Chelsea job that was about ostensibly about correcting course, Benítez will have to chart a new one.
At one time in his career, he was capable of doing that. His accomplishments at Valencia and Liverpool speak to it, but having painted more confounding pictures at Stamford Bridge, the San Siro, and his last year at Anfield, Benítez’s appointment at Napoli becomes a litmus test. If you feel the man is capable to recapturing the magic, there’s little reason not to hire him. If you believe the more recent evidence, he seems an bad fit for the job.
The only other time Benítez faced the tactical test of the Italian league, he drove a European champion to mid-table before walking away from Inter Milan. De Laurentiis has elected to cast this as an aberration, but for a team returning to Champions League, you can’t help but ask if they couldn’t have found a better fit.
Dec 7, 2013, 3:05 PM EST
Looking at how today’s match might play out from the visitors side:
Dec 7, 2013, 3:05 PM EST
Bayern stay four points above Bayern Leverkusen, who are now six above Dortmund in the Bundesliga table.
MLS Cup preview: Real Salt Lake meets Sporting Kansas City to decide Major League Soccer’s 18th championship
Dec 7, 2013, 3:00 PM EST
Two well-regarded American coaches, two super defenses and record cold temperatures are the dominant sub-plots:
Dec 7, 2013, 2:47 PM EST
Shocks results steal the limelight but there’s also big wins for Palace, Spurs and Liverpool in a busy day of action:
Dec 7, 2013, 2:27 PM EST
Spurs put in dominant display as AVB’s men continue their resurgence by slaying bottom club Sunderland:
Dec 7, 2013, 2:13 PM EST
FIFA have changed the times of six World Cup fixtures, including the scheduled kickoff time for USA – Portugal.
Dec 7, 2013, 1:19 PM EST
After Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Liverpool, Sam Allardyce appeared frustrated. So, too, are many of West Ham’s fans.
Dec 7, 2013, 12:51 PM EST
After yet another poor defensive display, Mourinho is worried about the defensive solidity of his Chelsea side:
Dec 7, 2013, 12:23 PM EST
Cardiff are the ones left fearing the relegation zone, after a revived Crystal Palace made victory look easy.
Dec 7, 2013, 12:23 PM EST
Can Altidore get his second goal in as many games when Tottenham come to town? Watch live, here:
Dec 7, 2013, 12:16 PM EST
Inconsistent Norwich will be thrilled to have put a bit of distance between themselves and the drop zone.
Dec 7, 2013, 12:10 PM EST
Stoke City pulled off a huge shock at the Britannia, as they beat high-flying Chelsea 3-2 on Saturday thank to Oussama Assaidi‘s late winner. The winger, on-loan from Liverpool, smashed home a beauty in stoppage time to seal a magnificent win for the Potters and send them comfortably into mid-table. In a topsy-turvy affair, Chelsea…
Dec 7, 2013, 12:03 PM EST
Saints pin back City after terrific display from the home side at St. Mary’s:
Dec 7, 2013, 11:58 AM EST
Liverpool pushed West Ham even closer to the danger zone, although the visitors’ own goals gave the Reds a hand.
Dec 7, 2013, 11:00 AM EST
Saints striker bags absolute stunner with mazy run and magical finish:
Dec 7, 2013, 9:56 AM EST
Watch on as the PL pays a fitting tribute to Mandela:
Dec 7, 2013, 9:52 AM EST
Newcastle grabbed an historic win at Old Trafford on Saturday, with David Moyes’ United looking utterly devoid of ideas.
Dec 7, 2013, 9:44 AM EST
Chelsea look to keep the heat up on Arsenal, will the Potters stop Mourinho’s men? Watch live, here:
Dec 7, 2013, 9:34 AM EST
Both West Brom and Norwich could really do with all three points — will either succeed in grabbing them?
Dec 7, 2013, 9:26 AM EST
Can the Saints stop the rot after three straight defeats? Will City make it four wins on the spin? Watch live, here:
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