Chelsea want to bring back Rafael Benitez to replace Maurizio Sarri, who is closing in on a move to Juventus.
Talks between Benitez and club owner Roman Abramovich have already begun, as the Blues want to quickly replace the Turin-bound Sarri, as per Italian outlet Tuttosport.
Benitez’s current contract expires at the end of the month, and since he hasn’t yet signed an extension, Chelsea are looking to move in.
Sarri meanwhile has already made his intention to return to his native Italy clear, and Chelsea seem okay with the prospect of letting their manager go if the Turin club can pay the compensation fee of £5 million.
Benitez at the Bridge: A good replacement for Sarri?
Rafa Benitez is pretty pragmatic manager who has proven his mettle everywhere he has managed. Having won titles with Valencia, Liverpool, Napoli, and in his previous interim spell with Chelsea as well, he isn’t the worst managerial option out there.
The work he has done at Newcastle United, on a shoestring budget, also deserves accolades. Some even say that keeping Newcastle in the Premier League for two seasons in a row should be seen as one of his greatest achievements.
Chelsea have appealed the transfer ban, and should their appeal be rejected, they will be under pressure as they won’t be able to sign new players. In such a scenario, someone of Benitez’s acumen would suit them well.
The problem, however, are his previous comments on the Blues during his time with Liverpool. Benitez had infamously said, “We [at Liverpool] don’t need to give away flags [in response to Chelsea fans waving blue flags] for our fans to wave – our supporters are always there with their hearts, and that is all we need.
“It’s the passion of the fans that helps to win matches – not flags.”
The Spaniard had also said that he would never manage any other club in England, but did a U-turn and took over as the interim manager of Chelsea in 2012. They did pretty well under him, as they finished in the top four, and also won the Europa League, but Benitez was never the Chelsea fans’ cup of tea for his comments.
Many names — Massimiliano Allegri, Watford’s Javier Gracia, club legend Frank Lampard and former Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho – have been touted, but considering the pressures the job demands and the transfer ban looming, Benitez might actually be the best option.
The appointment of Benitez might blow a fuse and cause the fans to go ballistic, however, as they are already distressed at the thought of seeing the Spaniard in the Chelsea dugout. Some have even claimed they will give up their season ticket in case Benitez is hired.
Lampard’s name is another that is doing a lot of rounds as the former Chelsea star might give the club’s younger players a chance if they aren’t allowed to sign new faces, and he’s adored by the fans as well.
It remains to be seen what decision the club will take, and even though Benitez would be a good option on paper, Lampard is more likely to get the job.
Stat Courtesy: Transfermarkt