Yesterday, Chelsea appointed former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez as interim manager. The Spaniard will coach at Stamford Bridge until the end of the season after owner Roman Abramovich sacked Roberto Di Matteo.
Benitez, 52, becomes Chelsea’s ninth manager since the Russian became owner in 2003. The decision was made to replace Di Matteo following Tuesday night’s 3-0 defeat by Juventus that left the club on the verge of exiting the Champions League.
The controversial decision to appoint Benitez has been met by mixed reaction from the fans. However, the majority of supporters are more than angry at Abramovich’s decision.
Benitez is a figure regarded with scepticism by many Chelsea followers following a series of epic clashes with Jose Mourinho during his time as Liverpool manager, when the Spaniard won two Champions League semi-finals in 2005 and 2007 and an FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford in 2006.
The rivalry between Mourinho and Benitez, who also lost a League Cup final against Chelsea in 2005, grew with the passage of time and an enduring loyalty to “The Special One” means it may be an awkward introduction when he takes his place in the Stamford Bridge technical area against Manchester City on Sunday
Some Blues fans threatened to rip up their season tickets in protest, with others stating a determination to show Abramovich they detested a man they describe as a “fat Spanish waiter” after the popular Di Matteo paid the price for the Champions League debacle against Juventus.Despite this, Benitez insists he will win the support of the fans.
The biggest immediate impact that he can make with Chelsea is via his interaction with under-performing striker Fernando Torres. Benitez was the manager who originally brought Torres over to England from Spain before Liverpool later sold him on for £50 million.
Benitez knows how to get the best out of his fellow countryman, his arrival at Stamford Bridge should fill Torres with the confidence he has needed for so long. If Chelsea’s number 9 can find his scoring form again, it won’t be long before Chelsea are contending with the Manchester clubs at the top of the table.
According to the Mirror and various other sources, Benitez is already making plans for the January transfer window. His main priorities are a defensive midfielder and a central defender, with Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel an early target.
Chelsea are also ready to splash the cash up front, with Atletico Madrid’s Radamel Falcao and Bayer Leverkusen’s Andre Schurrle prime contenders.
It’ll be interesting to see the fans reaction on Sunday as Benitez’s new side take on current league leaders Manchester City.
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