Rafa Benitez is looking increasingly likely to leave Chelsea at the end of the season with his stock having significantly risen.
He has helped bring a semblance of stability and order on the field for the Blues in what seemed the least likely environment.
There have been allegations of disagreements with senior players, the absence of Chelsea’s talismanic captain for a large portion of the campaign, the peculiar ‘interim’ title which let everyone know he was only there for a few months, and of course, the most strained relationship ever known between a manager and his team’s fans.
Despite all of these problems, Benitez is looking odds on to claim that last automatic Champions League spot. He took his team to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, beating Manchester United along the way, the semi-finals of the League Cup, and of course all the way to the Europa League final, where they may yet be victorious.
He also managed to integrate players in their first season at Stamford Bridge who had not been playing so much under Roberto Di Matteo, like Cesar Azpilicueta and Victor Moses. Not bad for a manager in such impossible circumstances.
We all understand why Chelsea fans abhor Benitez so much, but if he finishes the season with another European trophy for the Londoners maybe he hasn’t have been such a bad choice after all.
It also goes to emphasise that he is particularly effective working in English football. So considering this, as well as looking at what other jobs might be available at big European clubs, we can look at Rafa’s next possible port of call.
A team close to Benitez’s heart, is it possible that he has done enough at Chelsea to convince Florentino Perez to engage in a swap deal? Benitez played much of his football in Real’s reserve team, and ended up managing them for two years at the start of his coaching career.
The Madrid native would love nothing more than the chance to go one further than Jose Mourinho, and wrest the title away from Barcelona for more than the one season the Portuguese managed.
If Real don’t go for Benitez there is a lot of talk that they’ll pinch Malaga’s manager Manuel Pellegrini, who has done fantastic under difficult circumstances this season on the Spanish coast.
Currently sixth in La Liga, they would have been in the running for the fourth Champions League spot if they wouldn’t have been excluded from European competitions due to financial problems. If they can get this overturned in the courts, or lessened to one season from the current four, they may well be an attractive proposition.
PSG are another team that may be on the look out for a first class manager, with Carlo Ancelotti rumoured to be considering moving on after their expected title victory. Lyon, if they part with Remi Garde, are another top French team that Benitez may consider.
Would Rafa give the city of Milan another try? Not particularly loved at their rivals Inter, despite his tenure there a couple of years ago, Rafa could be an option for the Rossoneri if Massimiliano Allegri’s rumoured switch to Roma comes off.
Ok, I admit this is not an entirely serious suggestion, but look again. Moyes has departed the club for Manchester United and Everton have the chance to bring in a manager who can take them to the next level.
Rafa can move back to his beloved Liverpool, and he has already shown he isn’t afraid to head somewhere where he isn’t likely to be welcomed in the stands. It couldn’t be any worse than his last six months!
What do you think Everton fans? Would Benitez be a sign of intent from the Goodison board or a grossly misjudged appointment?
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