Chelsea fans welcomed ex-Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez to Stamford Bridge with harmonious angry booing. Some, although unnoticed, may have heavily spat on the floor in disgust. 14 games on the interim boss continues to divide opinion. The unpopular Spaniard has overseen 8 wins, some incredibly impressively, like the 8-0 humiliation of Aston Villa. He has also displayed shrewd football foresight by moving David Luiz into a holding midfield role. More recently however,Chelsea have lost two home games on the bounce and look in danger of falling at the ‘Capital One’ Cup semi final stage. Benitez has also been criticised for his rotation policy, particularly when concerning chief play maker Juan Mata.
Over in Spain Benitez remains as popular as tapas, olives and transport strikes. A former Chelsea sweetheart on the other hand is losing his ‘special’ powers of seduction there. Mourinho’s Real Madrid are an embarrassing 16 points behind leaders Barcelona, but even worse, sandwiched smugly between them are bitter local rivals Athletico. This is unacceptable to most fans of the Spanish champions and it is reported that he’s fast losing their backing.
According to a recent poll, in Madrid based newspaper Marca, Benitez is the man wanted if Mourinho leaves the Bernabeu in the summer. The survey was carried out exclusively to Socios (club members) and Benitez topped the poll with 21.4% of the votes. Benitez was formerly both player and manger of Madrid’s youth set up and is fondly respected in Spain for leading Valencia to two league titles and a UEFA Cup trophy. His achievement of winning the Champions League with Liverpool probably didn’t go unnoticed either.
Second on the poll was Germany’s Joachim Low with 19.5% of the votes, but worryingly for Swansea fans, Michael Laudrup was third on the list with 15.6%. The former Real Madrid player built a reputation for his teams playing attractive football when managing in Spain. In his first season in England the Dane has continued the passing standards set by Brendan Rodgers and is on the verge of taking the Welsh club to the ‘Capital One’ Cup final, at the hands of Chelsea. He is also responsible for possibly the signing of the season in Spanish forward Michu. If a team such as Real Madrid did come knocking on his door surely it would be difficult to turn down.
One fact that is almost certain, and will no doubt warm the hearts of a proportion of Chelsea fans, is the likelihood that whatever Benitez does between now and the end of the season, he will not be in charge at Stamford Bridge post summer. Strangely, at this moment in time, Benitez is operating at a higher win rate withChelsea(57.14%) than any of his previous clubs but, that won’t be enough to save him. A certain wealthy Russian will be doing all within his financial powers to tempt Guardiola to the Bridge. If Mourinho were to leave Madrid then he would also be strongly and fondly considered.
Mourinho to Chelsea, Benitez to Madrid, Laudrup to stay at Swansea… everybody’s happy?