England: Forget Hiddink, Roman should bring Rafa to the Bridge
As Chelsea FC lick their wounds after ending the 2010-11 season empty handed, much speculation continues as to the identity of the club’s new coach following the departure of Carlo Ancelotti. Much of the current speculation is pointing towards Guus Hiddink which is far from surprising considering that he led the club to FA Cup success in a caretaker capacity during the 2008-09 season after “Big Phil” Scolari was sacked by the club’s owner Roman Abramovitch. However if the Russian billionaire is really desperate for a top coach to come to Stamford Bridge then he shouldn’t look much further than former Liverpool FC coach Rafael Benítez.
Having owned Chelsea FC since 2003, Abramovitch has bought a galaxy of stars and hired and fired an assortment of managers in order to bring success to the west London club. This he has done with some aplomb having won three English Premier League titles, three FA Cups and two League Cups in that time. However there is a gaping hole in the Chelsea trophy cabinet which desperately needs filling and that can only be done with success in the UEFA Champions League. Having lost the 2007-08 final to English rivals Manchester United it is clear that Abramovitch really wants to win “Old Big Ears” and, in my opinion, Benítez would be the perfect choice.
After all, the Spanish coach began life with his former club Liverpool FC by winning the 2004-05 UEFA Champions League with a far inferior squad to the one he could potentially inherit at Stamford Bridge. Benítez, on many occasions, got the better of his arch-nemesis José Mourinho whilst the latter was Chelsea boss and proved himself on many a famous European night at Anfield with victories gained over such illustrious clubs like Real Madrid, Internazionale and Juventus FC. If there was anything that “Rafa the Gaffer” was particularly good at it was his ability to prepare for Champions League matches and his record of two finals, a semi-final and a quarter-final in Europe’s premier club competition stands that theory to the test.
But it isn’t just the European issue, important though that is, which should bring more attention to Benítez’s qualities as a coach. At Valencia CF he won two Spanish league championships in three years, as well as the 2003-04 UEFA Cup, and that team still remains the last one from outside the big two of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona to have triumphed in La Liga. Benítez also has FA Cup and European Super Cup triumphs to his name whilst at Liverpool and having run Manchester United close to the 2008-09 title it is clear that the Spaniard takes all challengers head on. If you take away the last 18 months of his time at Anfield his record is as good as most of the top coaches in Europe. One other important question to consider is this: if there is anyone who is going to bring out the best out of recent £50m Chelsea signing Fernando Torres, who flourished under Benítez while at Anfield, then surely that man is Benítez.
Think about it…….