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Spanish Armada (4) - Rafael Benitez

Spanish Armada (4) - Rafael Benitez

It`s time to continue our on-going series with a look at a controversial (interim) managerial appointment made by Chelsea, that of Rafa Benitez.

Back in May 2012, Roberto Di Matteo, in a capacity of caretaker manager, had overseen Chelsea not only win the FA Cup but achieve the dream of dreams by bringing the Champions League trophy back to Stamford Bridge.

On the back of that success, Roberto Di Matteo joined that exclusive group that have both played and managed Chelsea Football Club.

However, by November, Di Matteo`s stock at the club had fallen, a poor start to the season allied with a poor start to the defence of the Champions League saw the axe fall on the reign of the likeable Italian, who was worshipped by the support.

With a vacancy to fill, Chelsea Football Club turned to Rafael Benitez and the Spaniard was appointed in a role whereby he was labelled as an interim manager on 21 November 2012.

The appointment wasn`t greeted with enthusiasm by the Chelsea support who had never forgiven the Spaniard for his criticism of our club, when he was in charge at Liverpool, with Benitez remarking,

'Chelsea is a big club with fantastic players, every manager wants to coach such a big team. But I would never take that job, in respect for my former team at Liverpool, no matter what. For me there is only club in England, and that's Liverpool.'

But there`s more!

'We don't need to give away flags for our fans to wave - our supporters are always there with their hearts, and that is all we need. It's the passion of the fans that helps to win matches - not flags.'

Those terse words were to have a major impact upon Benitez`s reign as interim manager of Chelsea Football Club.

The first game of his reign, against Manchester City, saw the Stamford Bridge crowd give the Spaniard a hostile reaction when was officially introduced, the game was to end 0-0.

Indeed, Chelsea, under Rafa, had to wait until the fourth game of his reign to taste victory, when Chelsea crushed Nordsjaelland 6-1 in a Champions League group match, but Chelsea failed to make the knockout stages of the competition and were forced into the Europa League as a consequence.

In the Premier League, Benitez got his first win as the interim manager when Chelsea won 3-1 away to Sunderland.

There was respite from domestic football in December when, having won the Champions League back in May, Chelsea took part in the FIFA World Club Cup. Benitez guided Chelsea to a win over Monterrey but were to lose the final, 1-0, to Corinthians of Brazil.

Back on the home-front, despite still not being accepted by the Chelsea faithful, Benitez oversaw a 5-1 League Cup win away to Leeds, thereby securing a semi-final place in the competition before thrashing Aston Villa 8-0.

But after those highs came another low period when Chelsea were beaten 1-0 by QPR and then tumbled out of the League Cup, losing over two legs to Swansea City.

Towards the end of February 2013, the frustrations felt by Benitez boiled over when, following a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough in the FA Cup, the Spaniard lashed out about his 'interim` manager tag and the continual protests by the supporters. Rafa also declared he would be leaving Stamford Bridge at the end of the season.

The highs and lows of the season continued with some indifferent form and perhaps the situation was summed up perfectly when, at one stage Chelsea were sixteen points behind the leaders Manchester United when they`d only been four behind when Di Matteo was axed.

Any dreams of winning the FA Cup ended when Manchester City beat Chelsea 2-1 in the semi-final, however, there was still the chance of glory in the Europa League with Benitez leading Chelsea to the final.

Chelsea finished Benitez`s Premier League season with two wins, away to Aston Villa and home to Everton, both by a 2-1 score-line. The Villa game was particularly significant as Frank Lampard scored both the goals to become Chelsea`s all-time top scorer.

Sandwiched between those two Premier League games was the Europa League Final against Benfica on 15 May. Chelsea were to win the trophy courtesy of a late header from Branislav Ivanovic, as Chelsea triumphed 2-1.

During his time in charge of Chelsea, Benitez guided the club to a top-four finish guaranteeing Champions League football the following season whilst also bringing the Europa League trophy back to Stamford Bridge.

Many would see that as quite an achievement and I guess Rafa must have something about him to be the only manager in history to have won the UEFA Europa League, UEFA Super Cup, UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup.

But supporters are loyal and Chelsea supporters never forgave him for remarking about their fine club,

'Chelsea is a big club with fantastic players, every manager wants to coach such a big team. But I would never take that job, in respect for my former team at Liverpool, no matter what. For me there is only club in England, and that's Liverpool.

'We don't need to give away flags for our fans to wave - our supporters are always there with their hearts, and that is all we need. It's the passion of the fans that helps to win matches - not flags.'


Mini Fact-File - Rafael Benitez

Full Name - Rafael Benítez Maudes

Date of Birth - 16 April 1960

Place of Birth - Madrid, Spain

Height - Five feet nine inches

Position - Manager

Youth Career - Real Madrid

Playing Career Clubs - Real Madrid Aficionados, Castilla CF, Parla (loan), Parla, Linares

International Honours - Spain Universities XI

Clubs Managed - Real Madrid B, Real Valladolid, Osasuna, Extremadura, Tenerife, Valencia, Liverpool, Inter Milan, Chelsea (interim), Napoli, Real Madrid, Newcastle United.

If there is anybody of Spanish origin who you would like to see featured in our new series simply send an e-mail to JUVENILED40@HOTMAIL.COM and we`ll do the rest.

Spanish Armada (1) - Asier del Horno

Spanish Armada (2) - Fernando Torres

Spanish Armada (3) - Juan Mata



Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Merlin
Date:Friday October 20 2017
Time: 10:33AM

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