x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Comparing Rafael Benitez's Chelsea rant with the Liverpool one aimed at Sir Alex Ferguson

As Chelsea's interim manager blasts his own club, Will Batchelor ponders whether Rafa's latest Rant can ever match his original.

Rafael Benitez has been in the news for his rants, for targeting Manchester United while at Liverpool and now at his Chelsea owners. Ian Kingston / AFP
Rafael Benitez has been in the news for his rants, for targeting Manchester United while at Liverpool and now at his Chelsea owners. Ian Kingston / AFP

Can a sequel ever better the original?

Fans of The Godfather, Terminator and Star Wars movie franchises would say yes.

But what about fans of Rafael Benitez? Specifically, what about fans of his trademark rants?

Purists may find it hard to accept that Rafa the gaffer's midseason "Fact Rant" of 2009, directed mainly against Sir Alex Ferguson, can ever be topped. Others, however, may feel that the Spaniard's tirade against Chelsea fans on Wednesday night was better.

As always in such a dilemma, we must seek the truth via the appliance of cold, hard logic. Or, to put it another way: Rant Fight!

In the Liverpool Red corner, weighing in at five minutes and seven seconds, the original Fact Rant.

In the Chelsea Blue corner, topping the scales at an astonishing seven minutes and 25 seconds, is the ... actually, this is the first weakness of the second rant: what to call it?

Unlike the Fact Rant, which named itself, there was no such recurring rhetorical punctuation in the latest outburst. The closest we get is "Agenda", a term Benitez used repeatedly when describing the fans who continue to jeer him at Stamford Bridge.

Personally, I think "agenda" is a little off the mark, lending the boo brigade an air of malevolence and shadowy organisation which exists mainly in the paranoid imagination of Benitez himself. They just preferred Roberto Di Matteo and want rid of Benitez. Can such a basic reaction really be called an "agenda"?

Still, in the absence of any real competition, it is the best we can do. Fact Rant versus Agenda Rant. In the Catchy Title category, Fact Rant is a clear winner. 1-0.

Next we move to the tricky category of Tone. Tricky because this comes down to a matter of personal preference.

However, my preference is for the slightly angrier, aggressive and sarcastic Benitez we saw in the Fact Rant than the weary, shrugging, finger-wagging version which emerged this week.

Angry Rafa had much better jokes, notably the perfectly deadpan suggestion that the fixtures list should be drawn up by "Mr Ferguson, in his office, then sent to us and nobody will complain".

He had no such comedy zingers for the grumpy Chelsea fans, sounding more like an exasperated supply teacher when warning that by "making banners and singing songs, they are just wasting their time".

As for his studied nonchalance and rueful smile when discussing the term "interim manager", this was passive-aggression at its most infuriating. He had the air of a slighted wife seeming not to care that her husband had forgotten their anniversary again. 2-0.

In the related category of Theatricality, we must also award a clear victory to Fact Rant. The flourishing of the sheet of facts, the slapping of his palm upon table, the half-wink and temple tap ... it was like a one-man show. In the Agenda Rant, body language was limited to numerous Gallic shoulder shrugs. 3-0.

It is probably inevitable that a rant which scores highly for its dramatic content will suffer in the next category: Logic.

For all his talk of "facts", the 2009 Rafa was floating some pretty wacky conspiracy theories.

This week's message - that disgruntled fans are not doing their team any favours by booing at home games - is relatively hard to argue with. 3-1.

This brings us to the most crucial category of all: Context.

The Fact Rant came from a manager whose obvious passion for his club had sent him momentarily potty. He was maddened by love. The Agenda Rant, on the other hand, was driven not by love for Chelsea but by dented professional pride.

Here is a hugely experienced and decorated manager (he listed his silverware haul three times) who has finally snapped at being told he is not fit for purpose.

Lashing out at Ferguson mattered. With Liverpool topping the Premier League and Manchester United snapping at their heels, that outburst bore all the hallmarks of a manager who had fallen victim to Ferguson's mind games, despite his protests to the contrary.

It augured a spell of poor form which, despite a late season rally, cost Liverpool the league title.

By contrast, ticking off a few disgruntled Chelsea fans and a fickle board means nothing. He will still leave in May, the fans will still boo him, the owner will never be happy: that cursed job remains Mission Impossible.

Which, by coincidence, is another movie franchise in which the sequel outshone the original - something that cannot be said of Rafa's Rants. 4-1.


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