The Andy Gray Column: Rafa Benitez in no-lose situation at Chelsea

Summary: ambassador Andy Gray was talking exclusively to South West Londoner…


MANY people are questioning Rafael Benitez’s decision to take the Chelsea job on an interim basis, but he’s been out of the game for a long time and if you’re not careful you get forgotten about.

Benitez has never been a man who has struck me as someone who does things short-term but he’s never been offered a job like this, simple as that.

He had to put himself back in the shop window whether that was at Chelsea or another club around Europe – this is an opportunity for Benitez to get back in the game after two years out of it.

It’s a no-lose situation for him. He can’t fail. He’s only there for six months and if it doesn’t work out then so be it.

He can say the squad was dysfunctional, that it was difficult to work there, that he did his best and nothing came of it, but if he makes a success of it then all of a sudden he’s a hero.

I give Rafa huge credit for what he did with Valencia and winning the Champions League with Liverpool was a fantastic achievement, but whether others give him the credit is up to them.

But that Champions League-winning side in 2005 was very much built by Gerard Houllier, and though winning La Liga was a wonderful achievement it was eight years ago, when Real Madrid and Barcelona were not quite the forces they are now and it was a little easier to split them.

His last success really came with Liverpool in the FA Cup six years ago, and Inter Milan was not a success story for Rafael Benitez in any shape or form – it did not work out for him there and we do not know if this will.

Two years ago Benitez said he could never go to Chelsea because of his love for Liverpool but that’s football for you.

Benitez and every manager say lots of things about lots of clubs, and there was a fierce rivalry back then between Liverpool and Chelsea, particularly in Europe.

I don’t think Chelsea fans should be too bothered about that. Many coaches will have said things about Chelsea in the heat of battle. I wouldn’t put much stock in it.

There are a lot of Chelsea fans who don’t like the appointment, far more than do like it, but he can sway them round by winning big games and it doesn’t get much bigger than the champions of the country arriving in your back yard at the weekend, and it shows how fickle football fans are.

The one thing I am surprised about in all of this is the timing of Roberto Di Matteo leaving, but Roman Abramovich has never been one to mess about when he felt his team were going out of Europe.

It’s happened in the past – Chelsea have previous with this, Jose Mourinho and Luiz Felipe Scolari in particular, and Abramovich has done it again. He’s wielded the axe very quickly and very brutally.

It’s amazing to think the man who coached the team that won the Champions League just back in May and are only four points off the lead in the Premier League was found to be not good enough for his job and was sacked.

But then again nothing should surprise you with what happens at Chelsea.

Abramovich owns the club, he bankrolls it, and he runs it the way he wants. But ten trophies in nine years with eight managers – who’s to say he’s right and who’s to say he’s wrong?

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