Three key Chelsea players who might be sad to see Rafa Benitez leave

Benitez has faced plenty of criticism from Chelsea fans, but the players have generally backed their manager, and David Luiz, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata have all benefitted from the Spaniard's spell at Stamford Bridge.

Given the animosity Chelsea fans held towards Rafa Benitez when he arrived at Stamford Bridge, it is fair to say that even if he steers the Blues to the Europa League and third place in the Premiership his time will not be remembered fondly in the stands.

However the Chelsea players might have a different view of their manager, and there are certainly members of the squad who have benefitted hugely from Benitez's tenure.

Perhaps the most obvious is David Luiz, who has become so influential for Chelsea this season that there is even an expectation that the Brazilian centre back will take over as captain when John Terry eventually leaves the club. Luiz has played in midfield and as the team's leading central defender, adding the odd screamer to his fine defensive work.

Eden Hazard too has been superb in recent months, having come out of a mild mid-season slump to rival even Juan Mata to be the most influential part of Chelsea's attack. Hazard’s nominations for both the Premier League player of the Year and Young Player of the Year is testament to his excellent debut season in England, and Benitez has done well to ensure the Belgian does not run out of steam.

This is something he has also achieved with Juan Mata, who had the busiest summer of perhaps any player in the Premier League last year, but is still going strong now as Chelsea look to finish the season with a bang.

Benitez's rotation and team selections have always divided opinion, but the fact that he has steered the Chelsea squad through a ridiculously busy season without tiredness becoming a major factor is incredibly impressive, and Mata is perhaps the clearest symbol of this.

Benitez' tenure at Chelsea has been one of the most bizarre stories of the season, but the Spaniard's spell is looking increasingly likely to be a success, and whilst Chelsea fans will shed no tears at his departure, a few of their players might well be sad to see him go.

image: © Ben Sutherland

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