Benítez aims for short-term success to achieve long-term goal at Chelsea
Rafael Benítez is wise not to think about anything but winning trophies this season at Chelsea, writes Martin Caparrotta
For Rafael Benítez, it’s all very simple.
Forget Chelsea’s relentless conveyor belt of off-field sagas. Forget the widespread assumption that he is merely a stopgap before Pep Guardiola takes charge next summer. Forget the reports of discontent amongst fans over his appointment.
The way he sees it, Roman Abramovich has given him the chance to win five trophies in seven months. Everything else is a footnote.
“For nearly two years I was waiting for the right opportunity,” he explains during his unveiling as the Blues’ new interim manager at Stamford Bridge, fresh from overseeing his first training session at Cobham.
“When you analyse why you would go to a top side like this for seven months, it’s because you can win trophies. When you have a chance like this you have to take it.”
It is a cautious attitude but one appropriate for a man who has taken charge of a club that has just dispensed of its eighth manager in nine years.
Roberto Di Matteo’s sacking was rapid and ruthless but few Chelsea fans will admit they were surprised to see the Italian given his marching orders by Abramovich.
The new Blues boss said he might meet the club’s billionaire owner later on Thursday but claims he had no contact with him prior to his appointment. Nevertheless, the Spaniard says he knows what he needs to deliver.
“My agent talked with the people in charge at the club. I will maybe meet the owner today and I’ll talk about football. Today I was talking to [technical director] Michael Emenalo and he explained to me what they expect and what they want.
“They didn’t promise anything. They said: ‘we’re hiring you because we trust you and think that you will be successful with us’.
“When you have experience at this level, what they are expecting from you is to win games, to try to do it playing well, and to win trophies.”
Asked what he needs to do to land the job on a permanent basis, he replies: “It’s very simple: winning games is a guarantee for everything.”
One of the first challenges for Benítez will be to squeeze the best form out of the misfiring Fernando Torres, who developed a reputation as one of Europe’s top strikers under the former Valencia head coach after he brought him to Liverpool.
But the new Chelsea boss refused to dwell on Torres’ form when quizzed over the striker, insisting success will come as the result of the whole squad adopting the right mentality.
“I saw today a lot of players with a great attitude and Fernando was one of them,” he says. “With this attitude they will improve. Can we help them to improve? We will do our best.
“Fernando is a top-class player and if he has a great attitude he will improve like anyone.
“He is one of the important players in this team – and they have a lot of them. I will try to improve him like I’ll try to improve the others.”
Benítez’s developed a somewhat frosty relationship with Chelsea and its supporters as a result of the club’s intense rivalry with Liverpool while he was in charge of the Reds.
Asked if he was concerned that not all Chelsea fans backed his appointment, he says: “We have something in common, the manager and the fans – we want to win every single game. Now they can have doubts but I think that in the end they will be pleased.
“In seven months you can win some trophies and I’m sure everyone would be delighted.”
If recent history is anything to go by, the path to success will be far from smooth for Chelsea’s new interim manager, but for now Benítez is just delighted to be back in charge of a top English side.
“I wanted to stay in Europe. I wanted to stay in England. I’m really pleased and really happy to be in the Premier League again – and in a top side that can win trophies. Perfect.”
Time will tell if his upbeat outlook will last through to the summer.