From the moment Rafa Benitez took over the reins at Chelsea, he was booed, jeered and heckled by fans because of his previous dealings with the club while manager of Liverpool. Add that to the fact that many fans felt that club legend and Champions League winner, Roberto Di Matteo didn’t get a fair crack of the whip, and you have the basis for a toxic environment for the former Liverpool boss. To an outsider looking in, Rafa’s task was one that didn’t seem like the trouble it was worth. An interim boss who knows he’s only a short term fix.
But in his 6 months as manager, the Spaniard has managed to navigate Chelsea’s daunting fixture list with league and FA cup semi-finals, World Club Final, and a Europa League trophy. He was also able to secure a Champions League spot in what was a hotly contested run in. One would think that this would get the respect from the Chelsea faithful. Not a chance.
One of the most impressive achievements of the Benitez era at Chelsea however, is the development of the previously erratic but undoubtedly talented David Luiz. Luiz has gone from an undeniably talented but highly erratic defender, to a consistent and reliable defender OR midfielder. Some may argue with captain qualities to boot.
Defence is something that is the benchmark of a Benitez side and
Chelsea players recognize what Rafa brings to the team. Benitez has given Chelsea a level of defensive steel and grit that was lacking when Terry was the anchor of it. He has had the courage of his convictions to drop and rotate seasoned players and has brought the best out of 50 million pound man Fernando Torres.
But, it is almost a certainty that Rafael Benitez will be shown the door at the end of the season to make way for the second coming of “The Special One.” Mourinho will undoubtedly bring the circus and fervor that the media will certainly court. I for one will be skeptical given that Chelsea are no longer the biggest checkbook at the party.Where Benitez goes from here is yet to be seen,but wherever he goes he can hold his head high and give himself a pat on the back for a job well done.
Be warned though that sequels rarely live up to the original.