Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Rafael Benitez, who was at a coaching seminar in Abu Dhabi today, has guided Liverpool to Champions League success. Sammy Dallal / The National
Rafael Benitez, who was at a coaching seminar in Abu Dhabi today, has guided Liverpool to Champions League success. Sammy Dallal / The National

Rafael Benitez named Chelsea interim manager following Di Matteo sacking

The former Liverpool manager has been handed the reigns at Stamford Bridge until the end of the season, writes Osman Samiuddin.

ABU DHABI // Rafael Benitez flew out of Abu Dhabi to take over as Chelsea interim manager and succeed Roberto Di Matteo. The Italian was dismissed following the side's 3-0 defeat to Juventus in the Champions League the previous evening.

Speculation that the former Valencia and Liverpool manager was approached by Chelsea began immediately after the match.

Benitez, who was in Abu Dhabi to talk at a coaching seminar arranged by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, had refused to reveal whether there had been contact when the Di Matteo decision was announced, but said that Chelsea would fit the criteria of the kind of club he would return to management for.

"Obviously, it is a top side and they can compete for trophies so it falls in this category," he said.

"What I will say is that I am looking for a club that can challenge for trophies, so Chelsea is one of these clubs. I cannot answer directly [whether they have been in touch]. A lot of people are talking so we will see what happens in the next days."

The possibility that Benitez is offered the role on a caretaker basis until the end of the season – to keep the seat warm for Pep Guardiola, the former Barcelona coach, perhaps – had also been raised, but Benitez was non-committal on whether he would take on such a role, or indeed on the prospect of working for an owner who has gone through eight managers in 10 seasons.

"To be fair, I don't know. I have to talk to my agent and see what he has been doing in the last couple of days. I am just trying to have a team that can win so we will find ways if you have challenges like this."

Earlier in the day, during the seminar just before the news of Di Matteo's removal from his post was confirmed, Benitez had said his "next challenge was close".

The chance to coach again in England would be immensely attractive to a man who has set up home in the country; his family are said to consider Liverpool home.

Benitez said that he had been close to taking up assignments over the past two years, possibly at Premier League clubs, but insisted that the prospect of being able to work on a "project" was vital.

"I had some good offers but again I would say [there has to be a] project and good opportunities, [from] a very serious club but somewhere I have to say I can go on and try to win."

Despite being outside top-flight football since his stint with Inter Milan came to an end in December 2010, Benitez has kept himself busy with his website and a new book Champions League Dreams.

"I was trying to always be involved in football, analysing games," he said. "I would prefer to be on the pitch but if you cannot you have to be in contact with football at the top level."

He said the reason he has not coached in nearly two years "is that you are looking for a top side that can challenge for trophies, because there are not too many top sides that can challenge, so I had to wait".

Reaction to Benitez being appointed at Stamford Bridge was mixed.  Former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho wished him well in the job, saying: "I like my old clubs to win.

"I always wish the managers of my former clubs well so I always wish good luck to managers of my former clubs.

"I wish good luck to Benitez."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted surprise that the former Liverpool and Inter coach would take on a short-term post.

"[It] is a surprise as well because Rafael Benitez is a guy who has a record," he said.

"He is a manager of stature and it is a surprise he is appointed for such a short time. I am surprised as well he accepted that."

And Trizia Fiorellino, chair of the Chelsea Supporters Group, warned:

the chair of Chelsea Supporters Group, Trizia Fiorellino "Benitez will just not be accepted by Chelsea supporters.

"I don't think Benitez is a good manager, he's been out of work for two years now. If he was any good, why hasn't any other club snapped him up?"

 

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Glenn Maxwell's knock that followed ensured Brendon McCullum's knock went in vain after his explosive half-century took Chennai Super Kings past the 200-mark. Ravindranath K / The National

All is well with Punjab as Maxwell and Miller seal win against Chennai

The Australian missed out on a century but his 95 runs, along with Miller's unbeaten half-century, ensured Kings XI scaled a mighty peak of a target in a hot first game of Abu Dhabi's double-header.

 Sunderland manager Gus Poyet protests during the Premier League match against Crystal Palace at The Stadium of Light in Sunderland, northeast England, on March 15, 2014. Ian MacNicol / AFP

Sunderland going out of Premier League with a grumble

Northeast club have underwhelmed during seven-year stay in the top flight

 Hamburg players leave the field after the match against Borussia Moenchengladbach on March 30, 2014. AFP

Hamburg the dinosaur’s time may be up in Bundesliga

Ever-present for 51 years in the German top-flight, Hamburg face the prospect of relegation, writes Ian Hawkey.

 At 105 kg, Gabrielle Garcia has dominated the world circuit and loves many things about being in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

Garcia seeks fresh challenge in MMA after her jiu-jitsu domination

Brazilian prides being a lioness in the sport but feels she can shed 25kg weight to pursue her MMA debut aspirations.

 England's Jonathan Trott hits out during the ICC Champions Trophy semi final match against South Africa at The Oval cricket ground, London June 19, 2013. REUTERS/Philip Brown

England’s Jonathan Trott sidelined with stress-related illness again

Jonathan Trott is to take a second break from professional cricket because of his stress-related illness as England and Wales Cricket Board and Warwickshire confirmed he will stop playing with immediate effect.

 Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho looks on during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at the Liberty Stadium on April 13, 2014 in Swansea, Wales. Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

‘That’s why we are a top club’ says Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech

Jose Mourinho’s men will temporarily claim the Premier League top spot if they beat Sunderland, leaving them in control of their own destiny in the title race ahead of a crucial trip to face Liverpool at Anfield on April 27.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National