Thursday, November 22, 2012


New Chelsea interim coach, Rafael Benitez might struggle to explain comments he made in the past about club.

No-one has got under Chelsea’s skin quite like Benitez, which makes his appointment all the more baffling in the wake of the decision to axe Roberto Di Matteo.

For instance, how’s he going to explain this one from five years ago?

‘Chelsea is a big club with fantastic players, every manager wants to coach a such a big team,’ said the Spaniard. ‘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.’

They loved him at Anfield and Benitez loves them too (he still lives on Merseyside more than two years after leaving Liverpool) which makes it all the more difficult to picture him in charge at Stamford Bridge.

And in 2007 before one of many epic European clashes between Liverpool and Chelsea, Benitez made a comment that was so popular at Anfield that they stuck the words on a plaque and put it on the training ground wall.
‘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.’

Other versions of this quote refer to ‘stupid plastic flags’ and end with the words ‘Chelsea fans lack passion’, but that will be largely academic when Benitez walks out at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

‘I will never forgive him for the statement,’ posted one Chelsea supporter this week. ‘Don’t forget your plastic flag at the weekend!’ wrote another.

His six years at Anfield saw Liverpool face Chelsea in the Champions League five years in a row – including three semi-finals – as well as a League Cup Final and an FA Cup semi-final.

They produced enough controversy, bad blood and, yes, barbed comments to make Benitez’s mission an almost impossible one even before he has walked through the door.

There was that ‘fact’ rant at Sir Alex Ferguson and the time he upset Everton by referring to them as ‘a small club’, but Chelsea and Jose Mourinho became a particular hobby horse.

When asked about his relationship with the Special One, who twice refused to shake his hand after games between the two clubs, Benitez said: ‘We were good friends until Liverpool started winning, then he started changing his mind.’
Nothing got to Mourinho more than what he has always called the ‘ghost goal’ from Luis Garcia that saw Liverpool knock Chelsea out of the Champions League semi-final in 2005 en route to glory in Istanbul.

Benitez risked further infuriating Chelsea and their manager by insisting the ball had crossed the line – on the say-so of his secretary Sheila.

‘After the game Sheila, who was sitting right in line in the main stand, said to me that the ball had crossed the line,’ said Benitez. ‘She is a very honest person and that was good enough for me. It was a goal.’


The former Valencia boss has always been reluctant to credit Chelsea and Mourinho for their successes, instead making pointed references to the financial might behind them.

‘We know Chelsea are a very good team,’ Benitez once said. ‘In the last five years they have spent big money on players.’ 

After Mourinho helped Chelsea to their first Premier League title in 2004-05, Benitez merely criticised their lack of flair, saying: ‘To me, Arsenal played much better football two or three years ago. They won matches and were exciting to watch.

‘Barcelona and Milan too. They create excitement so how can you say Chelsea are the best in the world?’ 

Another barb followed before Liverpool knocked Chelsea out of the 2007 Champions League semi-final.

‘I’m sure Chelsea do not like playing Liverpool,’ goaded Benitez. ‘When they are talking and talking and talking before the game it means they are worried. Maybe they’re afraid?’

And as they prepared to meet in the final four once again a year later, Benitez upset his opponents and striker Didier Drogba by revealing that he had put together a four-year dossier on the player’s diving antics.

Given Drogba’s cult status at Stamford Bridge and the fact that Chelsea are now weighing up the possibility of bringing him back on an emergency loan from his Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua, it’s one of several issues that threaten to make life rather uncomfortable for Benitez.

Meanwhile, Rafael Benitez told Chelsea fans he and they wanted the same things after arriving for his first day at the training ground following his controversial appointment as interim manager.

Benitez began the challenge of winning round his new club's players and supporters this morning, something that could be helped by the addition of a former Blues star to his coaching staff.

Boudewijn Zenden has become Benitez's assistant, according to the Dutchman's father and agent - although the Spaniard could still face an uphill battle with supporters for whom he has long been a hate figure.

Source: dailymail

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