After the disgusting and disgracefully tactless sacking of club legend Roberto Di Matteo, Chelsea have done little to quell supporters disquiet with the appointment of Rafael Benitez.
In the wake of the appointment admirers of Benitez have pointed to Liverpool’s Champions League win in Istanbul, The FA Cup they pocketed in 2006 and his perceived tactical nous to defend the decision.
Whilst detractors have thrown up the unmitigated disaster of his reign at Inter, a questionable transfer record and his inability to get the best Liverpool side of a generation to consistently challenge for domestic honours.
However, the mutinous air has little to do with these ‘facts’, it has nothing to do whether Chelsea fans believe Benitez is a good or bad manager, football is a game that defies logic, where the heart rules the head and the heart says Benitez isn’t Chelsea and seeing him with his silly little beard in a club tracksuit with the Lion rampant on his breast makes my skin crawl.
During his time as Liverpool manager and particularly while Jose Mourinho was in charge at Chelsea, the rivalry between the clubs, both on and off the pitch, intensified and Benitez with his jibes about plastic flags and lack of passion personified the enemy.
The Champions League semi-finals, the ‘ghost goal’ and the seeming guarantee that the sides would meet each other at least four times a season only strengthen the mutual ill feeling as did digs at Didier Drogba and accusations that Lampard was overrated.
While, he was their manager he was almost universally despised at Stamford Bridge – as was pointed out in no uncertain terms at Birmingham in the FA Cup when he was linked to the job last March – and he didn’t like us much either.
His taking the job smacks of Clough at Leeds, as the last stalwarts of the Mourinho team move towards the end of their career, he’s there to usher them out, to finally dismantle his rival’s great team and get the last laugh.
‘Rafa’ was never going to popular choice and in replacing the man who as a player gave the club their first meaningful silverware in 26 years, and as a manager their first ever European Cup, the strength of feeling has intensified, it’s fair to say he’s not particularly welcome here.