Chelsea started the season with Roberto di Matteo at the helm. The Italian was much loved and supported by fans and players alike, largely because di Matteo delivered the trophy this past May which Chelsea were craving for all these years – the UEFA Champions League, as his side triumphed against Bayern Munich in a penalty shootout.
A firm fan favorite, it came as a major shock when owner Roman Abramovic sacked Roberto di Matteo following a string of poor results, particularly after a bright start to the season. This move did not go down well with the fans, who immediately showed their distain when Chelsea brought in Rafael Benitez to replace di Matteo.
Chelsea and Benitez certainly have some history between them. They faced off on numerous occasions, during the latter’s time as Liverpool boss, and he managed to beat Chelsea on several occasions. Hence, Chelsea fans were not too keen to see their one-time rival manager take charge of things at Stamford Bridge.
However, this move was also being looked at as a blessing in disguise by some factions, as Chelsea’s misfiring striker Fernando Torres was to reunite with his former manager at Liverpool. There were expectations that Benitez could maybe change Torres’ fortunes.
Nothing of the sort has happened sadly, as Torres and Benitez’s reunion has not improved things for the striker. Chelsea’s results have not been improved either as their indifferent form has seen them drop to fourth place in the table, just above the currently fifth placed Arsenal.
Benitez has been booed in almost every single match by Chelsea fans, who have never been supportive of the coach. They have been urging Abramovich to bring back their beloved Di Matteo. However, the Spaniard has taken the fans’ behavior on the chin, and has been working very professionally as Chelsea’s interim manager.
We should respect Benitez for working in such a hostile environment. He has not let off the field matters affect him much…until now.
All the emotions regarding Chelsea fans’ behavior poured out in the post-match press conference last night, where Benitez spoke out about the fans, as he said, “These Chelsea fans have an agenda. These Chelsea fans are damaging the image of the club.
They are wasting time with their banners and songs. They don’t need to worry about me. I leave at end of the season.
If they want to be in the Champions League, they have to support the team.”
He also took the opportunity to criticize boss Abramovic’s decision of labeling Benitez as ‘interim manager’. He said, “They gave me the title of Interim Manager, is a big mistake, I am the manager.”
The scathing press conference following the Boro match and the subsequent interviews have surely not gone down well with everyone related to Chelsea Football Club, and surely they will further sour the relationship between Benitez and the fans. In fairness to Benitez he has been fairly professional in his dealings with everyone since he took over in the hot seat and even though he did not leave much to the imagination in his recent statements when he spoke about the fans he was still somewhat measured and controlled plus he remained surprisingly diplomatic throughout when he could have completely lost the plot. I guess money is a great leveler!!
Benitez now needs to steady the ship and end the season in the best possible manner which I think he could do (providing he is given the chance!)
Will that happen? I guess we will just have to wait and see!