Rafael Benitez can leave Chelsea with his head held high

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The fantasy story is nothing like the reality.

While Chelsea cried for Jose Mourinho’s castle, Rafael Benitez was brought in to build a sturdy house, brick by boring brick. And now his time is just about up.

Like the stepdad that they never really wanted, it would appear that the Chelsea fans will soon have their way and be shot of the man so they can run back into daddy’s arms.

But, while he was never going to be popular, he should have been treated with more respect.

When Benitez arrived, he was never going to be given the warmest reception. His association with Liverpool was always going to loom over his head, never mind the fact that he often managed to get one over on the Special One during his time there.

Chelsea fans wanted to persist with Roberto Di Matteo, the guy who managed to luck out in Munich. He bumbled past Napoli, stumbled past Benfica, diced with Lady Luck in Barcelona and then made out with her sister in Munich.

But the lady took her revenge on Di Matteo as they were found out in the Champions League group stages. Benitez was handed the reins as the team were on the verge of embarrassment, yet still they chanted for Di Matteo, same time, same place, every weekend.

But still, Benitez carried on with calm. Every week, asked the same questions about the response of the Chelsea fans, he didn’t give out. Just carried on with dignity. Even his ‘rant’ against them was done with the results of the club in mind.

But look at what Benitez has managed to lay down for Chelsea in the future. He has managed to develop a framework that has seen the waning powers of John Terry managed efficiently, has David Luiz out of his own way in defence, has Fernando Torres looking almost like a footballer again, and most importantly, has allowed Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar to fit into a flowing system.

And now he has a Europa League in the bag, too. They were played off the pitch in the first half, and frankly, were lucky to be in the game. But Benitez has seen way worse first halves than that in European finals, and he got into the players at half time evidently.

Chelsea came out renewed, and eventually clawed their way to another victory. Bar the FA Cup, Benitez has done all that Benitez could do for Chelsea, and now he’ll sail away into the sunset with his head held high.

In the midst of a real storm of rubbish - to outsiders, at least - Benitez has come out smelling of roses.

And it’s now back to Mourinho for Chelsea. But before that circus comes to town, Chelsea should count their lucky stars that they had Benitez.


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