Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

England: Forget Hiddink, Roman should bring Rafa to the Bridge

Posted in UK Football by peterbein on May 25, 2011
Guus Hiddink

Guus Hiddink won the FA cup with Chelsea in 2009. Is he the right man for the Blues again?

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.

Rafael Benitez

Rafael Benítez won the Champions League with Liverpool. Could he do the same with Chelsea FC?

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…….

UEFA: Super victory gives Atlético the Cup (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on August 28, 2010
Atlético de Madrid

Atlético de Madrid are the 2010 UEFA Super Cup champions

UEFA Europa League winners Atlético de Madrid claimed their first UEFA Super Cup title last night defeating UEFA Champions League holders FC Internazionale 2-0 in the Stade Louis II, Monaco. Since the game became an annual one-off fixture in 1998 the winners of Europe’s secondary club competition (Cup Winners Cup until 1999; UEFA Cup & Europa League thereafter) have been victorious in this tournament eight times in thirteen matches with Atlético’s triumph meaning that they became the fifth Spanish club to get their hands on the trophy in the last decade following Real Madrid (2002), Valencia CF (2004), Sevilla FC (2006) and FC Barcelona (2009). The defeat for Inter meant that their quest to emulate FC Barcelona’s “sextuple” of 2009 is over although they still have the chance to become Club World Cup champions in Abu Dhabi in December.

Rafael Benítez had begun life as Internazionale coach just seven days earlier by lifting the Italian Super Cup and had ambitions to win the European equivalent for the second time after he was successful in this competition with Liverpool FC in 2005. However Atleti coach Quique Sánchez Flores had other ambitions and wanted to build on his team’s Europa League triumph by winning another piece of silverware to his club’s fanatical supporters who were in much the better voice during the UEFA Super Cup match even before the goals went in. The first half was played at a good pace without many real chances being created although Sergio “Kun” Agüero should’ve had a penalty kick after just six minutes after being brought down in the box by Walter Samuel.

In the second half Inter began to have more possession but didn’t show the necessary desire to do anything with the ball whilst Atlético’s hunger for the win was more obvious and it was they who carved out the chances needed to win the game. In the 62nd minute the deadlock ws broken after José Antonio Reyes’ hard, low shot beat Júlio César to give los Rojiblancos a deserved lead. Atleti doubled the advantage with just seven minutes of the game remaining after the wonderful Simão broke down the left and crossed the ball to gift Agüero a tap-in from a couple of yards out with Inter’s defence remaining static behind him. There was still time for some late drama after Goran Pandev had been brought down in the box in the 88th minute but Inter’s luck had eluded them after David de Gea brilliantly saved Diego Milito’s penalty kick to ensure that the Super Cup would be winging its way to the trophy room at the Estadio Vicente Calderón.

Both teams now get back to business domestically on Monday night with Atlético de Madrid at home to Sporting de Gijón whilst defending Serie A champions Inter face a potentially tough away trip to Bologna, a match which Benítez must win if he is to silence any early-season doubters.