Rafael Benitez has taken on the lofty challenge of matching Jose Mourinho's treble success at Inter Milan after signing a two-year deal with the Italian and European champions yesterday. The Portugese coach left Inter to join Real Madrid last month, days after guiding the club to their first European Cup since 1965. He had earlier brought the Serie A title - Inter's fifth in succession - and Coppa Italia to the San Siro to complete an unprecedented treble in Italian football.
Benitez, 50, had been negotiating with Inter for nearly a week after leaving Liverpool, the English Premier League side, last month and a statement on the club's official website read: "Inter welcomes Rafael Benitez. The Spanish coach signed a two-year contract this morning that will run until June 30, 2012. "Benitez will be unveiled to the media in a press conference on Tuesday, June 15." Benitez arrived at Liverpool in 2004 after spending three seasons at Valencia, where he led the Spanish club to their first league title in 31 years. In his first full season at Anfield, the Spaniard won the Champions League and in 2006 the FA Cup, but the Premier League title eluded him.
Liverpool's last league triumph came in 1990 and pressure had been mounting on Benitez to deliver the championship. This led to clashes between the Spaniard and Liverpool's American owners - Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr - over a perceived lack of transfer funds. Liverpool finished seventh in the Premier League last season, missing out on a Champions League spot. That, coupled with early exits from the Champions League and FA Cup, resulted in Benitez's exit from the club after six years.
Massimo Moratti, the Inter president, went for Benitez after their first target Fabio Capello, the England boss, decided to stay with his current job until after the 2012 European Championship. Benitez's first task will be stopping some of Inter's best players from following Mourinho to the Bernabeu. Maicon, the Brazilian right-back, has already said that he wants to move to Real. However, Benitez could also now look to Liverpool for new players, given their financial problems.
Javier Mascherano, the Argentine midfielder, whose negotiations on a new Liverpool contract have been put on hold, praised his former manager earlier this week, saying: "Only Benitez could take the place of a coach like Mourinho. "He is a great coach. He has charisma, personality, a winning mentality." * With agencies