Chelsea foolish to overlook Benitez

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The suggestion that Rafael Benitez might be the next Chelsea manager was being dismissed almost as soon as the rumour had surfaced last week - but it's anyone’s guess as to the reason why?

One good night for Athletic Bilbao against a stagnant Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Europa League on Thursday, was enough to see Marcelo Bielsa being elevated as a contender for the Stamford Bridge hot-seat.

Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola remain the favourites with the bookmakers though, in a head-to-head battle to take over from interim manager Roberto Di Matteo at the end of the current campaign.

The former Blues assistant was promoted after the controversial sacking of Andre Villas-Boas - dismissed by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich after less than eight months in charge.

Benitez is a lot less smooth, and certainly less charismatic than the likes of Guardiola or Mourinho, and it seems almost unfashionable to extol the 51-year-old Spaniard's managerial credentials. History seems to have airbrushed out the success he achieved at Liverpool - a side Benitez inspired to European silverware – albeit against the odds.

Having guided Valencia to a UEFA Cup and La Liga double in 2003-04, adding to his previous domestic title, Benitez arrived at Anfield in July 2004 with the task of bringing the glory days back to Merseyside.

The Premier League title may have eluded him, but unlike Mourinho at Chelsea, he did deliver a European Cup to England, and for that he must be held in high regard.

Luckily for Chelsea, Benitez is still interested in joining the west London revolution, despite recent protests from Blues fans in their FA Cup fifth round replay victory against Birmingham.

"When I went to Valencia they were in the final of the Champions League and I was coming from the second division with Tenerife," he explained in an interview with The Sun. "The fans complained 'he's a young coach' and they were not sure about me.

"After winning two league titles and the UEFA Cup, they loved me. So the fans know what they want to see - and that's their team winning. I have done the same for years at different clubs so I have experience.

"I won the European Cup with an English club. What are Chelsea looking for? A manager who can win in Europe. If they have someone that can guarantee they can win a lot of games and especially in the Champions League, they will be happy."

Benitez ultimately overachieved in relation to the wages at his disposal at Liverpool. He may have spent a lot in the transfer market, most notably sealing big-money moves for Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres, Ryan Babel and Glen Johnson amongst others, but his overall outlay in the six years he spent at Anfield amounted to a loss of less than £4 million. Not bad business.

With the financial power of Abramovich behind him, the Spaniard would still be able to attract some of the finest names Europe has to offer, and could have a realistic chance of delivering the success Chelsea's Russian owner so desperately craves.

"I have said before, many times, that I would like to find a top side that can match my desire to win trophies," Benitez added. "I didn't have a proper offer on the table from Chelsea but there is no rush.

"I have been waiting since I left Inter Milan. I was just analysing football. There is no rush, I'm just waiting for the right project."

'Project' has been the ‘buzz’ word circulating around Stamford Bridge, particularly during the Villas-Boas era. The task is to overhaul the ageing squad in favour of new personnel with a view to implementing an exciting, attacking brand of winning football.

Both parties look well suited to the challenge. Benitez's Chelsea appointment makes perfect sense.

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