Roberto Di Matteo has faced the Chelsea bullet. One wonders if a Kenyon style execution occurred in Turin following Juventus’s emphatic rout over the boys in the Blue. Was Di Matteo summoned into a corridor to face the awful news by some executive in an expensive suit? Who knows, but he’s gone.
9 months after taking on the most fickle job in world football, after delivering both an FA Cup and a Champions League, Roberto Di Matteo has been dumped with Chelsea facing Champions League exit. Roman probably thinks he called it right last time, with AVB axed following the Napoli defeat and Chelsea rallying to storm into the quarter finals and eventual success.
I’m a Liverpool fan. There’s going to be some bias here, of course. I can’t find myself to like Chelsea. Not that many neutrals can. But Liverpool and Chelsea have some unwanted connection over the recent months. Both have been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons so we both understand a close minded mentality and the closing of ranks.
With Chelsea facing turmoil over the John Terry mess, Di Matteo was a constant calming outlet. Speaking to the media, gently avoiding their more incendiary questions and giving a much nicer face to the Chelsea beast.
But he’s gone. Turns out Avram Grant was wrong, that winning the Champions League is not enough to save your job.
Roman’s folly, Fernando Torres, possibly casting the final nail in a coffin all too hastily prepared in the last week or two following a patchy run of results.
Who to take over the Chelsea hot seat? One particular name being banded about with some regularity and seriousness is Rafael Benitez. But we’ve been here before. Rafa to QPR, Rafa to Villa, Rafa to Chelsea. Message boards filled with outrage. How dare Rafa Benitez be linked with our club! He’s only won La Liga, the FA Cup and the Champions League and the Uefa Cup! WE WANT MARK HUGHES AND HARRY REDKNAPP AND ROY HODGSON. They’ve won…GAMES!
One of the finest managers Liverpool have ever had, Rafa took a team filled with players such as Salif Diao, David Raven, Darren Potter, Anthony Le-Tallec, Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Neil Mellor to European glory. A staggering statistic of his reign at Liverpool is that only once during his tenure (and in November 2004 at that) was he beaten at Anfield by a team finishing lower in the league.
Contrast that with Roy, Kenny and currently, Brendan, under Rafa, Liverpool turned from flashy occasioners to serial Champions League contenders. Liverpool were a force on the European stage and a Federico Macheda injury time winner away from a possible title win.
Rafa was sacked by George and Tom with the additional meddling of Christian Purslow because he was not a yes man. He generated significant funds from repeated Champions League campaigns, regularly reaching the Quarter Finals and the Semi Finals and even gracing the Final on two occasions. That money was syphoned away by our trusted American owners of the time. Rafa wanted Jovetic, he wanted Falcao, he wanted Silva and Villa and he received nothing.
Question marks remain over his ability to spend wisely but with Reina, Agger, Johnson, Alonso, Mascherano, Torres, Kuyt, Lucas, Skrtel, Sissoko and many others in his corner it is hard to label him ineffective in the transfer market. But Rafa and the British media didn’t fit, he was demonised and he was cast out. Zonal marking blah blah blah.
What set Rafa apart is that he was no ordinary manager. He loved the club, fought on its behalf both on the pitch and in the boardroom.
Rafa to Chelsea doesn’t sit right. There’s no question he would take the job. However , Chelsea fans are hardly wam to the idea, having made it perfectly clear how much they did not want him during last year’s FA Cup tie against Birmingham FC.
Chelsea fans no doubt want a strong manager who won’t be bullied by their benevolent Russian oligarch owner. Guardiola is not coming to Chelsea. Not yet. Avram Grant? Mr Relegation himself? Why worry when there is a man waiting in the wings in Wirral with an enviable CV.
It’s interesting to see how Chelsea would line up under Rafa. Players such as Cole, Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic, Cech, Ramires and Torres would immediately benefit. Rafa got the best out of Stevie Gerrard too, so Victor Moses, who has dynamism and thrust may benefit. The flair players such as Hazard and Juan Mata would also fit in, much like Luis Garcia once used to.
Rafa likes his teams to dominate and suffocate. Press the ball, work hard and quick transfer from defence to midfield to attack. Recount how often Fernando Torres ran clear of the back 4, and note how it’s just not happening at Chelsea at the moment.
But Rafa is his own man. He will not take orders. And he will have no problems in airing his grievances if he feels he is being undermined. What’s for sure is that if Chelsea do hire Rafa Benitez, he will put his life and soul into the club and expect the same trust in return.
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