November 23, 2012 by Hamilton Fan
Roberto Di Matteo knew he was a dead man walking before he landed in Turin ahead of last Tuesday’s vital Champions Leauge group game against Juventus. The match was irrelevant, Roman Abramovich had made his decision long before Chelsea’s defeat against the impressive Italian outfit. If Abramovich would have had his way, Di Matteo would never have been given the job following Andre Villa-Boas’ sacking in Febuary, never mind given it on a full time basis in the summer. His surprise success at the back end of last season in winning the Champions League and FA Cup begrudgingly, in the eyes of the owner, bought the Italian the chance to take the job on permanently. However, every man and his dog knew he was warming up the seat for someone else. The owners love affair with all things Barcelona and his quest to sign-up footballs most wanted out of work manager Pep Guardiola is well known. It will be one of the most intriguing issues in football when Guardiola decides to call his New York sabbatical a day and return to management. The Russian billionaire just hopes he can do enough to persuade the Spaniard his future lies at Stamford Bridge.
After an impressive start to the season, the last few weeks have seen the London club drop from first to third in the Premier League and on the verge of being eliminated from the Champions League. For most other clubs this would be deemed a dip, for Abramovich it was an excuse. It gave the owner the perfect opportunity to dismiss a man he never really wanted. It also gave him the chance to appoint the man who he deemed at the time of Villa-Boas’ sacking the perfect fit to warm up Pep’s blue seat in the Chelsea dugout, Rafael Benitez. Benitez was offered the job before Di Matteo was appointed as interim manager, but turned it down. After being out of work for two years, this time around the former Liverpool manager saw the opportunity as too good to turn down. Benitez has, harshly, gained a very mixed reputation in this country. Outside of Liverpool it seems that the Spaniard is seen as a half-rate manager, with many people seemingly forgetting, or simply ignoring, the fact that Benitez has two Liga Liga titles and a Champions League trophy under his belt, to name just a few of his successes. For Benitez though it is the perfect opportunity to set the record straight. A seven month contract, with Chelsea still in a position to compete for five honours this season and with money to spend in January, it was a no brainer for the 52 year old who could sniff an opportunity to boost his already impressive CV and, he hopes, his reputation. How he handles the well known egos in the dressing room and please a disgruntled fan-base will be his first tasks, as well as addressing the issue of the under fire £50 million striker he once managed to get the best out of.
If Rafael Benitez can get the most out of the talented Chelsea squad then the fans will quickly change their opinion on their new manager. Despite claiming that Abrahomvich will be easier to work with than Tom Hicks and George Gillett at Liverpool, one thing is for sure, The Russian billionaire is not shy at adjusting his expensive play thing, whatever the cost. Keeping the seat comfortable for someone else, or the chance to shine? It is down to you, Mr Benitez.