Why Rafa Benitez deserves the Chelsea job
Chelsea opinion: Rafa Benitez has brought success to Stamford Bridge during his six-month tenure
On a weekend when Sir Alex Ferguson and Frank Lampard have grabbed the headlines for obvious reasons, the achievements of Rafa Benitez at Chelsea been overlooked.
It may be hard for Chelsea fans to admit it, but the Spaniard, or the ‘Fat Spanish Waiter’, as they describe him, has masterminded a successful season for the Blues that has seen them not only qualify for the Champions League next season, but saw them crowned Europa League champions.
It hasn't been plain sailing by any means, but Benitez deserves credit for transforming Chelsea's season from one destined for failure to a year of success.
On the back of everything the club achieved, like winning the Champions League against Bayern Munich in such dramatic circumstances, 2012/13 by contrast has been a considerable reality check.
Benitez arrived at Stamford Bridge in November with the club in turmoil. The Blues were not so much on their knees, but with Roberto Di Matteo fired and elimination from Europe's premier cup competition all but a formality, they were slipping incredibly off course.
Call it a sign of how bad things were or simply a coach learning the function of his team. It has taken time and effort, but Benitez has steered the Blues back to where they were hoping to be — competing for silverware and returning to the Champions League.
The journey has been an unpleasant one, sure. There have been venomous protests from supporters angered by Benitez's appointment, shocking home defeats to the Premier League's bottom club QPR, losing the Club World Cup to Corinthians, being outplayed and outclassed by Swansea in the Capital One Cup semi-final and even rants in the media about his treatment from the club and its fans. With the benefit of hindsight, it's all been worth it.
Chelsea defeated Aston Villa 2-1 at Villa Park to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League. In his post-match interview with BBC Sport, Benitez was asked if he could in fact be Chelsea manager next season based on what he's achieved in the past six months.
"What do you think?" he laughed. "I don't think so." If rumours of Jose Mourinho's return to west London this summer become nothing more than that, Chelsea could do a lot worse than drop the interim from Benitez's job title.
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