Chelsea and the season of unwanted men

Rafa Benitez 02

In his latest end-of-season review, Vincent Ralph looks back on Chelsea's campaign.

Chelsea started the campaign with a manager their owner didn’t want, and ended it with one their fans couldn’t wait to get rid of.

And yet they still finished as champions of Europe (if your spelling is a bit dodgy) and secured an invite to the continent’s top table again next September. In short, disastrous campaigns don’t come much less disastrous than that.

And yet it wasn’t a patch on the previous year, when a bloke deemed not-good-enough by Roman Abramovich secured his Holy Grail regardless – a Champions League trophy I imagined the Russian caressing like Blofeld stroked his cat.

The Chelsea owner’s method of selecting managers is akin to the way old people choose fruit, discarding those he is not 100 per cent happy with for the tiniest imperfection.

And when even that stopped working, he simply picked the next in line and tacked the word ‘interim’ on, as if to signpost Rafael Benitez’s inevitable fate before he had even changed the name on the door.

At the start of the season I questioned why a club would seemingly buy every midfielder in the world, while relying solely on a sad-looking Spaniard who stopped recognising himself in the mirror about a year after the rest of us stopped recognising him on the pitch.

That those midfielders proved to be among the best in the league put me in my place to a degree. But Demba Ba’s January arrival didn’t hide the fact their best striker was knocking in the goals for West Brom.

That Torres shoved a mask on and became something of a mediocre super-hero, whose power was to not disappoint quite so much, may have helped Benitez leave a trophy as his parting gift. But it still begs the question – what could Chelsea have done with a world-class striker?

In many ways, the imminent arrival of Jose Mourinho completes the trio of unwanted men; or previously unwanted in the case of the Portuguese.

Whether it is the right move to return to a home you helped build before being swiftly evicted from it will be answered over time. But it seems Chelsea will begin next season with a man wanted and welcomed by everyone. And that is something they haven’t been able to say for some time.

image: © thesportreview

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