Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez stated that he is ‘disappointed’ with the fans who he believes do not back him or the players and described the club entitling him as ‘interim manager’ a “massive mistake”.
Benitez arrived at Stamford Bridge in late November 2012 replacing Blues fans’ favourite Roberto Di Matteo. He was unpopular from the outset due to comments he had made whilst in charge at Liverpool where he held the managerial position for 6 years.
The fans’ discontent has not subsided in the little over two months he has been at the helm and they still cheer and sing for Di Matteo in the 16th minute of every game in homage to the departed Italian coach’s former squad number as a player.
"Chelsea gave me the title of interim manager, which is a massive mistake. I'm the manager…The fans are not helping us. At the end of the season I will leave. They don't have to worry about me,"
That is what Benitez told reporters after last night’s 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough in the FA Cup which now sees the Blues progress to the quarterfinals of the competition where they will face league leaders Manchester United.
His claim is that he and his representatives (his agent) were not informed that he would be the ‘interim manager’ at Chelsea. There are those who would point to the shotgun sacking of Di Matteo as one reason his future was not tied down on a long-term basis but there are those who might also wonder why he would presume to be anything but ‘interim’.
After all, since oligarch owner Roman Abramovich bought the West London club in the summer of 2003, the Blues have been through 10 different managers in 10 years. In fact, only two of those 10 have lasted longer than one year.
Claudio Ranieri lasted just a year after Abramovich bought the club from Ken Bates; Jose Mourinho was their most successful manager to date and still only lasted 3 years. His replacement Avram Grant stayed just one year, and his replacement Luiz Felipe Scolari lasted just one year.
Assistant manager Ray Wilkins was promoted for one month until Guus Hiddink took over for 2 months. Carlo Ancelotti came in for a two-year stint, followed by Andre Villas-Boas who was sacked after just 9 months.
His assistant Roberto Di Matteo won the Champions League and FA Cup and was axed after just 8 months, which brings us up to date with Rafael Benitez who, by his own admission, will be leaving at the end of the season.
Depending on your perspective, you might say Benitez was foolish to think he’d be given time and backing at Chelsea. However, there have to, eventually, if not now, be questions asked about what exactly Abramovich thinks he is doing? Football clubs need stability, sustainability, and managers need job security to achieve results.
How is a manager supposed to gain any kind of respect and authority with his players and build the relationships that foster success when he knows he is more likely to be fired in his first 12 months than be kept on?
To the team who, similarly, is constantly invaded by a swarm of new players, it must be confusing trying to remember the names of all these coaches and new players coming and in and going out at such an extreme rate.
How are they expected to adapt to new systems and build chemistry with their new teammates if every 12 months everything changes again – the personnel, the systems, the approaches, the favourites. It must be very confusing.
Managers like Rafael Benitez and Roberto Di Matteo before him are nothing more than disposable utility coaches and players who have been servants to the club like Frank Lampard are consumed like fast food and then discarded like garbage. It’s football made for mass consumption. You can eat it, or throw it away. You can always just buy another. Right, Roman?
image: © choonming