On the last day of the Premier League season the Chelsea Interim manager mulls over whether he should do a victory lap with his players at Stamford Bridge after the game against visitors Everton – and join in the celebration of earning a Champions League spot for next season. As well as winning the Europa League trophy midweek against Benfica. Which makes Chelsea the first club ever to hold both the Champions League title and Europa League titles simultaneously. Albeit just for a week as Wembley hosts the 2013 final between two German teams on May 25.
But Benitez is all about the clubs he works for and given that he is not wanted beyond the final whistle today, Rafa is happy to make his way home to Liverpool quietly and re-join his family for a well-earned summer break. He might even hitch a lift with David Moyes and Co as the Toffees appear to be one of the clubs he is currently being linked with, now that their manager is Old Trafford bound. As Rafa is an emotional man this final days will take its toll on him.
The contrasting events in Madrid with his rumoured successor at Chelsea, over the same time period, highlight the topsy-turvy days that lie ahead as Jose Mourinho concluded his season in Spain with a shock Copa del Rey defeat and a red card, meaning that he can no longer sit on the bench for the two remaining la Liga games. As ever, events in recent weeks at Real Madrid have been mostly about Mourinho rather than football. All of which started when he discussed his possible future with a premier league club only minutes after the defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the semi-final of the Champions League.
Starting it almost unprompted in the bowels of the hallowed Santiago Bernabeu stadium, the venue where he won his last Champions – but with Inter Milan.
Since that night in May 2010 Mourinho’s best laid plans in the tournament have been undone by Barcelona in 2011, Bayern Munich in 2012 and Dortmund in 2013. Failing to complete the three year task he was entrusted to do by Real Madrid President Florentino Pérez. Although the club may have killed the Galaticos image so coveted by Perez, the faith in the Mourinho proved Pérez had undergone no Damascene Conversion after his departure in 2006.
Since returning in 2009 and underwriting some of Real Madrid's debts, the results have only improved marginally with a La Liga title in 2012 and Copa Del Rey. Despite firing from the club the world's best football manager Vicente Del Bosque in 2003, he enticed Jose Mourinho to Madrid three seasons ago. And over time met every Special demand and allowed Mourinho full control of football affairs in order to secure the European Titles. Visibly absent from the club’s trophy room since 2002 and now after three years of more spending, still; absent. In addition Jose Mourinho will now leave the club in turmoil and a dressing room that rarely has seen such disharmony.
Having elected to drop club captain and goalkeeper, Iker Casillas, for footballing reasons Mourinho has chosen to make commentary that would have been wiser to avoid ever since. All fine in winning team but in a season that arch rivals Barcelona have won La Liga by a nearly a score of points, seen a new manager Juergen Klopp beat Real Madrid twice in four European games, and then a Copa del Rey defeat, have left a dent in the Portuguese manager's CV. The manner in which he then aired difficulties with Sergio Ramos and perhaps even tested his relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo should be a warning to the Chelsea faithful. Especially when some Chelsea stars are facing the inevitability wear and tear that comes with of age.
Mourinho is not famed for building clubs from youngsters and will want a big budget to do what he always does. That is buying in expensive talent.
The timing at the Stamford Bridge might now be a changing of the guard and with players wielding so much power it may not be fairy tale return. It’s a long time since he last was there and history shows that the squad made life hard for Portuguese colleague, Andre Villas-Boas – who is now functioning perfectly well at Tottenham Hotspur. As the Mourinho circus edges closer to London, in Madrid it draws to a close with the only remaining spectacle now - according to sports daily Marca – is that someone needs to pay Mourinho’s rumoured €10m escape clause.
Having been caught with his substantial termination payment at Chelsea the last time Jose left, club owner Roman Abramovich is reportedly not keen on paying again. So it may be left for Real Madrid to cover the sum in order to move things on. At the same time having to face a similar compensation headache from Paris Saint German who are keenly resisting the departure of their manager to the Spanish capital, Carlo Ancelotti. Another manager who found the days at Chelsea not career enhancing either.
For Florentino Perez the fallout from the past three years may take some time to heal and a squad that is more than unsettled at this time. And what’s more, trophy less.
But the club President is always keen on the big names and so the chances of Rafael Benitez returning to his alma mater and where he played as a youngster, and managed the Real Madrid B squad for a number of years, seems very unlikely. But what a fit it would be and with a record in Europe that is not light in achievements either, with a Champions League trophy won at Liverpool, a UEFA Cup at Valencia and now the Europa League at Chelsea. Not forgetting a La Liga title also with Valencia proving his pedigree in Spanish football.
At Chelsea Rafa has once proved once again he does what it says on the tin. Manage – in every sense of the word!
Although it may not be three Champions League trophies at three different clubs that the Special One so desperately seeks, surely his CV carries enough gravitas to show that Rafa delivers. Indeed, even faced with the added toughness at Chelsea and the virulence of some of the supporters against him, Benitez went about his work unruffled. He has been stoic in the face of the abuse, and delivered well beyond the unfortunate interim title would suggest.
However he may not be flash enough for Florentino.
As the Real Madrid public now reflect on the events of Friday night, and the media quote every utterance of the Special One, it is clear that for the past number of weeks Mourinho has elected to put himself above the club and focus on securing a new job. An unforgivable error for many Real Madrid fans and past players, and so his departure to Chelsea will come as good news rather than bad. Whether that is good for Chelsea is not their problem and remains to be seen.
What is clear though is that from a tactical perspective Mourinho needs to up his game as the days of “parking the bus” on the goal line as a means of winning trophies, as he did to FC Barcelona in the semi-final return league of the Champions League in 2011 with Internazionale, are well and truly over. Most teams have now figured out how to deal with that ploy and none more so than Borussia Dortmund this season. With Bayern Munich not far behind either last year - even if they got to the final on penalties.
In the face of those challenges Jose seemed devoid of new ideas and proved unable to stifle the attacking threat of Robert Lewandowski or Marius Goetz. What’s more, his once defensive aura was never matched at Madrid where he could not decide whether Pepe was better as a defender or midfielder. Then dropped him from the team unceremoniously when he complained.
Clearly Pepe had one of his best games of the season against Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey semi-final when in a midfield role. Not unlike what Benitez at Chelsea has done with David Luiz. In the end Mourinho fell out with his fellow countryman Pepe.
So for The Special One it is a season where his name is only touted at Chelsea with few other clubs seemingly seeking him out.
At Manchester United a poor track record in developing young talent made him a non-runner; across town the polemics may not be what City need at this time and in Europe Bayern Munich went for another option. The steady and understated Pep Guardiola. And now at Madrid it seems they want a similar type this time around, Carlo Ancelotti.
It will make for a welcome change from the Mourinho mayhem at Madrid no doubt.
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