A lot of people are asking the same question: Why Rafael Benitez?
In fact, Chelsea supporter groups have ruthlessly gone on record stating that they don’t want him as manager and it’s actually easy to see why they say that.
The man inherited a treble-winning team in his last job and led them to only 12 wins in 25 matches — Inter Milan, from all-conquering European champions went to listless mid-table team in the span of six months.
The only thing that looks bright about this signing is his ability to bring out the best in Fernando Torres. In 116 matches under the fellow Spaniard, Torres slammed 72 goals and set up 16 others. He has been subbed on just 14 times and subbed off 51 times. The appointment guarantees playing time for El Nino.
Daily Mail reporter Adam Shergold tells us from London: “Roman Abramovich is stuck with £50m striker Torres and wants to get the best out of him. But the style at Chelsea is different to the service Torres thrived on at Liverpool—less direct.”
Marko Maver, who supports Chelsea from as far as Slovenia, still has some hope: “ I don’t necessarily agree that Roberto Di Matteo should’ve been fired, but I quite liked Benitez when he was at Liverpool, so I’m interested to see how he fits in with Chelsea.”
He had that season when he finished 2nd behind Manchester United, but Liverpool would be celebrating a title at that time had he not tinkered so much with his tactics and rotated the team every week.
Even his transfer policy was atrocious. According to this Daily Mail report, he spent £229m on 76 players in his time at Anfield.
These may have included Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina, Daniel Agger, Dirk Kuyt, Lucas, Martin Skrtel, Glen Johnson and Javier Mascherano… but as time has shown — these players (barring Alonso and Mascherano) are now part of a languishing squad who find themselves in 11th place.
His decision to buy Robbie Keane for £19 million and then sell him for a loss within six months is a prime example of how indecisive he is. Add to this the useless £20 million purchase of Alberto Aquilani, that of Ryan Babel for £11m, Jermaine Pennant and Andrea Dossena for £7m each and Albert Riera for £8 million. His sale of Mohamed Sissoko was also not a good move.
But let’s excuse him on these fronts (all managers make bad signings) and look at his win-draw-loss record.
Benitez joins Chelsea boasting a win record of 55% in his time at the EPL. His overall career win percentage is 53.5%, draw is 25.6% and loss record is 20.77%. That means, he gets you points 79% of the times, which on it’s own is a very good record.
People are also throwing around his European record, but Chelsea are almost out of Europe, so that doesn’t quite matter when you’re signed as interim manager.
Abramovich may harp about how good the numbers look, but at a club like Chelsea, it’s not about numbers — it’s about how you handle a squad that often represents a group of sullen teenagers. And most importantly, the dictator in Abramovich himself. He couldn’t handle Massimo Moratti at Inter, so nothing says he will be able to handle the Roman.
We all saw how Jose Mourinho fell out when Abramovich forced him to play Andriy Shevchenko, and rumour mills suggest Di Matteo’s fate was sealed at his insistence to drop Torres.
If a manager has just been signed to handle one player, then there is certainly something wrong with the team. It is, without a doubt, going to create a rift in the dressing room.
To handle players outspoken players like Ashley Cole, John Terry, Petr Cech and Frank Lampard is not easy. Benitez found it incredibly hard at Inter Milan to handle the stars. His success has come at down-to-earth teams like Valencia and Liverpool.
At Chelsea — the stakes are just too high.