x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Benitez gets by day by day

Rafael Benitez, the embattled manager, has another good day as Inter reach the CWC final. The next hurdle, on Saturday: TP Mazembe

Rafael Benitez, the head coach of Inter Milan, gives out instructions from the touchline against Seongnam last night.
Rafael Benitez, the head coach of Inter Milan, gives out instructions from the touchline against Seongnam last night.

Rafael Benitez's 188th day as the manager at Inter Milan went swimmingly last night at Zayed Sports City, so as midnight approached it appeared clear he would receive a 189th day on the job, that being today.

The lack of a match on Friday would appear to grant Benitez a 190th day in charge, extending until midnight when a 191st day would begin on Saturday.

With kick-off for the Club World Cup final on Saturday not scheduled until 9pm, and the final against TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo not ending until around 10.50pm, Benitez would seem a wise choice to complete that entire 191st day at the helm and probably lap over into a 192nd, that being Sunday.

Not to be rash or assumptive about it, but this means Benitez stands almost completely assured of an Inter managerial stint lasting more than 4,600 hours.

Well, where are the cups?

Look, if the Fifa Club World Cup aims to give us a sampling of the football upon Earth, it's handy that this 2010 edition gives us a sampling of just how preposterous the football world has become.

Just to be fashionable in a world that yanks managers like mad just in England alone, the Club World Cup probably should hold open a spot each year for a club with a manager who was just hired but whose surname already turns up after the adjective "embattled."

With this stipulation, maybe it could invite Newcastle United permanently.

In the category of the routine doubling as ridiculous, it's ridiculous we're even discussing the job status of a man who just accepted a vastly complicated post on June 10. There figure to be boxes he has not unpacked and people - maybe even injured players - he has not met more than several times, yet everybody buzzes about a potential sacking as we become an ever more easily bored species.

It's what we do, and it's normal and fashionable - well, of course we do that! - but ridiculous. Fashion can be ridiculous, as you know, even if usually not in Italy.

The man has not had much time to learn his club, not even with the 14-hour work days and not with the much-noted glut of injuries, but as we've seen, Inter have encountered imperfection this autumn.

They have had hours and even days that did not go flawlessly. They even have had some really sour weeks, and you wonder how people overcome such intolerability.

Nine matches went by during which they won only two, and that batch included a loss to AC Milan plus draws with Brescia and Lecce.

Not only do people around Inter Milan find unusual duress in draws with Brescia and Lecce, but all this comes off a luminous spring in which Jose Mourinho managed the club so divinely in his second season that they became the first Italian team ever to win the treble of the league, the national cup and the Champions League.

Benitez not only has not won the treble, he has won neither the Scudetto (league) nor the Coppa Italia (cup) nor the Champions League with Inter.

Some would point out that those competitions remain in progress for 2009/10 and have yet to give out any cups and will not give out any cups for months and months to come, but these people are dwelling in technicalities and need to stop wallowing in excuses.

With that most recent and most meaningless 3-0 loss to Werder Bremen in the Champions League painfully in the books, urgency clearly beckoned for this Club World Cup, so no wonder Benitez had stressed that his club needed to flourish briskly against Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma of South Korea. Wouldn't you know that, by the third minute, they had.

Dejan Stankovic had slid in a goal, and the Inter fans ringing Zayed Sports City had made a considerable and captivating roar, and Stankovic had run around manically and jubilantly, but all of this could not obfuscate a glaring and crucial issue.

Clearly, Benitez had flopped in those first two minutes. In no way, shape or form had he managed those first two minutes as well as Mourinho would have.

Yet, as he said upon arrival in Abu Dhabi, "There's talk about all the people who could replace me but I'm still the Inter coach, I want to win this Club World Cup and I'm sure that if I do, I'll be here for a long time."

Yeah, he wins this thing, and he almost surely will get that 193rd day and, not to be too sunny about it, probably even a 194th.