Chelsea and Rafael Benítez is a marriage of inconvenience
It was inevitable that Rafael Benítez's arrival at Chelsea's sparked an angry reaction from Blues fans, writes Richard Buxton
Rafael Benítez and Chelsea was a marriage of inconvenience long before a ball had even been kicked.
Not since Brian Clough took the reins at Leeds United back in 1974 has a manager arrived at a club so widely despised for the total disregard he previously showed his current employers.
The perennially outspoken Clough lasted just 44 days in the Elland Road hot-seat but even the short-term nature of Benítez’s tenure has left the Chelsea fans he has vowed to win over during the next seven months are already counting down those 215 days left on his contract.
Benítez may have insisted that he did not hear the unanimous boos by the home crowd against Manchester City, but not even all the soundproofing of his personal vacuum could mask the level of derision which will have assaulted his ears as he stood in his technical area.
All those years of goading the west Londoners, with jibes about flags and sneering Little Red Riding Hood references finally came home to roost at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon.
Unrest in the stands is hardly new at Chelsea. After all, it was following a dismal goalless draw with Hull City in 2009 that calls for Luiz Felipe Scolari to be disposed emanated from the Shed End, which Roman Abramovich adhered to days later in relieving the Brazilian of his post.
But never has a manager encountered such widespread, vociferous and volatile opposition.
Even Alan Pardew’s initially hostile homecoming as Newcastle manager was placated by a 15th-minute opener en route to a resounding win over Liverpool, while Steve Kean’s blunder-ridden spell in charge of Blackburn began with an initial spell of goodwill.
Benítez, however, had drawn the ire of Chelsea far too often that it would not be far-fetched to suggest that Abramovich’s decision to appoint him was largely for schadenfreude.
Nothing appears off limits to the oligarch, whose whimsy saw Roberto Di Matteo dismissed little over six months after guiding the Blues to a first European Cup in their history.
The appointment of Benítez as the Italian’s successor was a surprising turn of events.
He had continually disregarded the club as the antithesis to his attempted dynasty of purism at Liverpool, which yielded more than its fair share of lucrative failures to offset his successes, but now finds himself in a fairly demeaning scenario as he looks to rebuild his career.
Some Liverpool fans regularly decry his unemployment and claim that those who have since succeeded him at Anfield are merely ‘keeping the seat warm’ for his forecast return.
Instead, he has joined club of which he once made a powerful enemy, with a job title which will only deliver further ridicule from his detractors. The team sheet against City declaring him ‘interim first-team manager’ may as well have said ‘busboy’, such was the lack of prestige.
But for all the potential sadism to Abramovich’s madness, there is also method after entrusting both André Villas-Boas and Di Matteo to offload Chelsea’s old guard to no avail. What better way to dispose of an ageing squad than with a former nemesis as the designated fall guy?
And that is likely to be the perception of Benítez. He regularly spoke of waiting for “the right offer” yet has compromised it in exchange for a caretaker role which is essentially a buffer for supporters to vent their frustrations rather than towards their reckless Russian benefactor.
For a man whose plans for Chelsea seemingly have neither rhyme nor reason, despite unprecedented success, Abramovich’s unholy union will pay dividends in the long run.◀ The Sport Review homepageNext story ►
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