The 53-year-old Spaniard claims Jose Mourinho is a failure in the Champions League, despite the fact the Portuguese ‘Special One’ has won the competition twice with two different clubs.
The pair’s ‘feud’ goes back over the last decade, to when Benitez was manager of Liverpool where he spent six years from 2004, during which Mourinho enjoyed his three-year first spell in charge of the Blues.
Benitez’ Reds knocked Mourinho’s Chelsea out of the Champions League twice in that period and now the Napoli boss has responded to Mourinho’s claims he underachieved whilst in charge at Stamford Bridge as the unpopular interim manager who took over from Roberto Di Matteo last term.
“Mourinho talks a lot about a lot of people, but I prefer to talk about facts,” Benitez stated.
“At Liverpool, with a squad half of the value of Chelsea, we twice knocked his Chelsea side out of the Champions League. Later, with the most expensive squad at Real Madrid, he did nothing in the Champions League.
“Now he says if there is an offer of hundreds of millions for Hazard and Oscar, maybe he can build a strong squad to win something,” he added.
Mourinho does indeed like to talk a lot about his fellow professionals but Benitez is doing just the same in this instance – the question is, does he have a point?
Mourinho desperately wants to win the Champions League with Chelsea, which if he succeeds this time around would make him the first coach to win the competition with three different clubs. Benitez won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2004/05 in his first season in charge at Anfield and won the Europa League last term with Chelsea.
Liverpool beat AC Milan in the Final in Istanbul in May 2005 after knocking Chelsea out in the semifinals. The summer Benitez arrived at Anfield, he spent just £39.8 million bringing in the likes of Djibril Cisse, Josemi, Luis Garcia, Xabi Alonso, Fernando Morientes, and Scott Carson, whilst selling El Hadji Diouf, Michael Owen, Danny Murphy and allowing Vladimir Smicer, Stephane Henchoz, Chris Butler, and Markus Babbel leave on free transfers making his total spend £25.3 million.
The same summer when Mourinho arrived in London from FC Porto, he spent £111.9 million bringing in John Obi Mikel, Andrei Shevchenko, Salomon Kalou, Michael Essien, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Lassana Diara, Scott Sinclair and Asier Del Horno (as well as Michael Ballack on a free transfer). Chelsea sold Eidur Gudjohnsen, Alexei Smertin, Tiago, Mateja Kezman and let go of a number of reserve players to the tune of £20.8 million in the black, making their total spend £91.1 million.
According to the figures (taken from http://www.transferleague.co.uk), Benitez has a point – indeed he spent £65.8 million less on strengthening his squad and knocked Mourinho’s Chelsea out of the competition, going on to win it. Where Benitez ought to perhaps show a little more respect is in the fact that Mourinho has won the competition twice and is a top manager, if not the best in the business.
Mourinho spent nowhere near that much at Porto and won it and spent €89.05 million (around 80% of what he spent in his first term at Chelsea) at Inter Milan where he won the treble in 2008/09. However, Benitez is fair in his assertion that Mourinho failed at Real Madrid – he spent roughly €111.5 million (players sold taken out already) across his three-year spell in the Spanish capital and didn’t win the Champions League, winning the La Liga title just once.
However, Chelsea can still win the Champions League this term potentially, in which case Benitez would find himself eating his words – in total Chelsea incurred £53 million loss in the transfer windows since Mourinho returned to the Bridge and if the Blues go on to win it this term, Mourinho will have again proven himself a special, special one, with or without a special amount of money at his disposal.