The Spaniard was sacked by the club and replaced by Zinedine Zidane, after seven months of pessimism that ultimately ended courtesy of a 2-2 draw against Gary Neville’s Valencia.
Roman Abramovich will no doubt prefer to land a marquee name such as Pep Guardiola or Diego Simeone to replace Guus Hiddink in the summer, but the Blues’ current predicament means he may need to consider his options.
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Benitez was hated during his brief interim spell at the club, yet he won the Europa League and may be a contender if their search for a manager takes an unexpected twist.
Madrid finally lost patience with Benitez with the Spaniard having failed to win the trust of the players or the supporters during his time in the capital.
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His brief spell was frequently marred by talk of a rift with Cristiano Ronaldo, and a 4-0 home defeat to Barcelona in the Clasico meant he was always likely to be discarded by club president Florentino Perez.
Zidane will take over having learned his trade at the club’s B team, earning the post ahead of Jose Mourinho whose turbulent relationship with figures such as Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos meant he was not lined up for a return.
Benitez was loathed because of his links to Liverpool, but despite marginalising John Terry still managed to win silverware amid the uproar.
Roberto Di Matteo was a fan favourite and had won them the Champions League, meaning his popularity was never likely to usurp that of his predecessor.
However, despite winning the Champions League and Capital One Cup, Jose Mourinho’s popularity plummeted as his players gave up on the manager they had performed so well for less than a year ago.
And although a notoriously defensive manager, Benitez coaxed the best from individuals such as Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard on his way to winning the Europa League.
Shortage of options
Abramovich has been known to be an admirer of Guardiola for years, but the former Barcelona manager looks destined to succeed Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City when his contract at Bayern Munich expires.
Simeone would be an ideal fit due to the wonders he has worked at Atletico Madrid, but prizing him away from his beloved club would be difficult particularly if they maintain their title charge.
Benitez would be a controversial choice – and Stamford Bridge may not be the ideal location to boost his damaged ego – but it would not be a surprise if he returns to solve their managerial dilemma.
Chelsea fans: Would you have Benitez back at Stamford Bridge? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below!