x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Rafa Benitez has the top job now at Chelsea but at a price

Rafael Benitez has been brought in to replace Di Matteo for the remainder of the season, but I am not convinced by the appointment.

Rafael Benitez has quality players at disposal now.
Rafael Benitez has quality players at disposal now.

Pep Guardiola may be favourite to become the next Chelsea manager in the summer, but if I were him I would have serious reservations about taking the job.

It would be OK if he wants to do nine months work and get a big payout after getting sacked, but I do not think that's his style.

Chelsea are now on their eighth manager in just over five years since Jose Mourinho left the club. Nine good coaches who have fallen foul of the owner Roman Abramovich and his whims. The club is his baby and he can do as he likes, which usually involves changing the manager every time he is displeased and paying him off a fortune.

Chelsea rarely emerge from the constant changes with much credibility; players do not appreciate the disruption and what should be a top job has become one which the best coaches should be wary.

Guardiola can have his pick of the world's best clubs, so why would he go to a club as unstable as Chelsea?

Roberto di Matteo was on borrowed time from the start, then he surprised everyone by winning the Champions League and the FA Cup, making it harder for Abramovich to sack him - and Guardiola obviously didn't want the Chelsea job in the summer as he enjoyed a well-earned sabbatical.

Di Matteo is not stupid, he knew exactly what was going on and that he would be out the minute his team hit a sticky patch.

Chelsea started the season well, played some really good football and they are still in contention in the league title race. Every team loses a few games and has a bad spell during a season, but as I said recently, teams with a lot of new, young foreign players tend to struggle when the cold weather and the intensity of English season kicks in.

They were in a tough Champions League group, too, and defending a trophy is always harder than winning it - no team has achieved in defending the European Cup in over two decades. Opponents raise their games against you.

Under the Italian, Chelsea had to meet these challenges while adapting to a new, expansive style of football the owner so desperately craves. Trying to play like Barcelona is one thing, but only Barcelona can really do it. Di Matteo was doing well overall, but that was not good enough for Abramovich.

Rafael Benitez has been brought in to replace Di Matteo for the remainder of the season, but I am not convinced by the appointment.

He did very well at Valencia and he won the Champions League with Liverpool.

He is tactically astute and gets players giving their all. His teams work hard, but he had a great chance of winning the Premier League in 2008/09 with Liverpool but blew it when he went to pieces after entering into mind games with the master, Sir Alex Ferguson.

Perhaps Abramovich plumped for the Spaniard to get the best out of Fernando Torres, something he managed with aplomb at Liverpool. I'm baffled why a player who was so good has become so average.

Torres shows glimpses of his talent in games, but he looks uninterested in others.

He was world class at Liverpool and world class players don't just lose that quality, yet Chelsea have seldom played to his strengths. Like another Chelsea target, Radamel Falcao, Torres is all about making well-timed runs and using his pace to get the ball and score.

It is not about the formation, he can play in a 4-3-3 and has done that with Spain, but he doe not get the service at Chelsea which he had at Liverpool.

Torres will be as bemused by the latest sacking at Chelsea as the rest of the players. The West London club may be the European champions, they may be the FA cup holders, but incessant change is not good at a football club.

I used to be disappointed when any manager I played for was sacked because it usually meant the players had let him down. There was always a sense of guilt in the dressing room, but I do not think the Chelsea players let Di Matteo down.

It is worrying how every time a manager is sacked at Stamford Bridge, the players come out and say that things were not right. I wonder whether they are told to say that to save face for people above and help justify the decision.

The players liked Di Matteo, it would seem very strange if they came out and criticised him. The Italian will hopefully get another good job off the back of his success at Chelsea.

Benitez has been patiently waiting for a top job to present itself ever since being dismissed from his last job at Inter Milan in 2010 and in Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar, he has some great players at his disposal.

He will see it as an ideal opportunity to prove to all his critics he is a decent manager, and he may even win a trophy or two.

Sadly, even the biggest trophies are not always good enough for Chelsea's trigger-happy owner.

Andrew Cole's column is written with the assistance of the European correspondent Andy Mitten.


twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE