So after a hectic day, it is official. Rafael Benitez, formerly of Valencia, Liverpool and Inter Milan, has been appointed interim Chelsea manager untill the end of the season. A move that will need a lot of warming up to from many Stamford Bridge attendees, however he is undoubtedly a good manager, especially based on his performances at Valencia and Liverpool.
As a very organised and tactical manager, the reasons for his appointment are clear. Halt the current fall that Chelsea are in, and maintain results the rest of the season. But with the shadow of Pep Guardiola looming over him at the end of the season, will Benitez really have the motivation to turn the club around knowing he’s only there for 6 months, especially when Chelsea didn’t really need turning around anyway? And why is he better than Roberto di Matteo, who at least could have provided stability for the club through to the end of the season anyway?
Fernando Torres is always a factor with Chelsea these days, and he may have been one of the main reasons for Bentiez’s appointment. Having worked with Torres at Liverpool in his greatest Premier League days, surely the Spanish striker will welcome the Spanish manager the day after he was dropped against Juventus. Getting Torres to fire is surely one of Benitez’s main tasks at Chelsea until the end of the season. But three managers in the past have failed, while Torres remains at the club, leaving the fourth now with this task which is looking increasingly impossible. But the ex-Liverpool boss is in the best position to help Torres find his form out of any of the other managers given the pair’s history.
This leads into what Rafa will be charged with doing in the transfer market, if anything at all. He was known as a economical wheeler-and-dealer in his time at Anfield, not paying over-inflated prices but paying for quality, such as the 22m he payed for Torres in 2007. But knowing Roman Abramovich’s hands-on approach to the club, Benitez may not get any say at all. One of the main people this change of manager will influence may be Radamel Falcao. Does Benitez’s appointment represent the continuation of having Torres as the only fully developed striker in the squad, just when both RDM and Falcao had indicated they would want the Atletico man to be at the Bridge come January? I had finally come to the decision with Di Matteo that enough was enough, and wanted to see Daniel Sturridge play against Juve, but as fate would have it he was ruled out through injury as well. But will Benitez carry through the same thoughts or stick with Torres until the end of the season or sign Falcao? Given the owners dream to appoint Pep Guardiola, knowing that the ex-Barca man will want funds in the summer, will there be substantial money spent on the interim manager? Maybe not.
The third area Benitez will be charged with success in is in results and trophies up till the end of the season. Would Abramovich be targeting higher than just a top 3 finish? Probably, but that may just be the expectation for Benitez, especially if he can win some other trophies. Chelsea are currently in pole position on win The Capital One Cup and Fifa Club World Cup, and the have a very good history in the FA Cup which would also be a target for Benitez. If they could win all 3 of those, and qualify directly for the Champions League next season, surely that would represent a good stint from new interim manager Rafael Benitez.
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