The timings, the manner, the Henry the VIII aura surrounding it – Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea sacking was one that took many by surprise. Granted, Chelsea hadn’t won a competitive encounter since their 4-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur last month, but it was a shock nevertheless.
With Twitter effectively going into meltdown following the news, speculation was rife as to his replacement might be. Eventually, and prior to Wednesday night’s Champions League encounters, it was announced that Rafael Benitez was to become ‘interim first-team manager’ until the end of the season.
This came about despite the Spaniard previously stating “Chelsea is a big club with fantastic players, every manager wants to coach such a big team. I would never take that job, in respect for my former team at Liverpool”.
However, while the Blues may be obtaining a Benitez that will return to the game with fresh ideas and a new approach to football, he is the wrong short-term appointment to have been made. It’s a well known fact that owner Roman Abramovich wants to see his Chelsea side play football that mirrors that of La Liga giants Barcelona.
It was for this reason that Di Matteo didn’t last all too long as manager, despite signing a two-year deal back in June. The Italian utilised the capability of Didier Drogba to great effect, relying on his physicality to deploy the Ivorian as a lone target man – exactly the opposite as to the needs of Abramovich.
While fans will likely be treated to the similar football he had his Valencia and early Liverpool side playing, he still isn’t the right candidate for the role. That, as controversial as it may sound, belongs to Harry Redknapp.
Before launching a torrent of abuse my way, at least hear me out. When Redknapp was appointed as Tottenham Hotspur manager back in 2008, the North London side were, as many know, bottom of the Premiership with two points after eight games.
The veteran boss completely changed the fortunes on the pitch and, after finishing eighth in the 2008/09 season, secured three consecutive top six finishes for the first time in 47 years. Sacked over the summer, Redknapp has been linked with numerous returns to football, Ukraine the latest to have shown a strong interest in the 65-year-old.
Yet, during his stint with Tottenham Hotspur, he had the team playing eye catching, attractive football that won the plaudits of many within the game. In fact, it was this style that saw him linked with the Chelsea job when Carlo Ancelotti was relieved of his duties 18 months ago.
As a long-term solution, he certainly isn’t the person for the job and Chelsea would likely have welcomed the return of Joe Cole, for example, back at Stamford Bridge, such is his preference for signing experienced Premier League players.
However, with Abramovich continuously battering his luxurious Russian eyelashes in the direction of Pep Guardiola, only to be told the Spaniard isn’t looking for a long-term relationship yet, the Russian Oligarch needs a short-term f**k buddy to bridge the gap between now the summer.
While both Benitez and Redknapp may not be the most attractive duo in world football, it’s the latter the axe wielding billionaire should’ve opted for. While the former has his admirers, he has also been out of the game for almost two years now.
Since his sacking as Inter Milan manager, the portly Spaniard has been linked with a host of roles, but has opted to remain out of the game, before it became official that had taken over the reins at Chelsea, until the end of the season anyway.
But while his ideas may be fresh and innovative, Redknapp’s time out of the game has been short and his familiarity with the Premiership in the modern day would surely have stood him in better stead to succeed Di Matteo, unless of course Ukraine have got their Eastern European mits on the veteran boss.
Either way, the attacking approach of play that Redknapp had his Tottenham Hotspur side playing during his three full years at White Hart Lane is exactly the brand that Abramovich is crying out for. On top of that, it’s this style of football that would undoubtedly bring out the brilliant best in ‘The Three Amigos’ – Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata.
Chelsea fans, however, should be confident in the ability of Benitez. They won’t be getting the same manager that was undermined during the end of his Liverpool tenure, but rather the fresh, rebuilt equivalent.
Nevertheless, it’s the former Spurs boss that, in my opinion, was the stronger candidate for the role, especially in the short-term. He would’ve boosted the confidence of the players once again, including of one Fernando Torres, and rejuvenated them in a way that could’ve seen them land domestic and European glory this season.