Benitez admits he never spoke to Abramovich
SOCCER:Rafael Benitez last night declared working for Roman Abramovich would be “easier” than for George Gillett and Tom Hicks, despite admitting he had never even spoken to the Chelsea owner.
Benitez had no fears about putting himself in the crosshairs of football’s most demanding boss or that he had only been appointed manager on an interim basis until the end of the season.
But it was the revelation of him having had no contact whatsoever with Abramovich that raised the most eyebrows considering reports of how intently the Russian courted Pep Guardiola prior to settling on his fellow Spaniard.
“I will meet him today,” Benitez said before heading off for dinner with Abramovich after being unveiled as the Russian’s ninth manager in just over eight years.
“The main thing is that I have spoken to Michael Emanalo, the technical director, and he’s my link. I like to speak about football with him. That’s my priority.”
Roberto Di Matteo was the latest victim of Abramovich’s trigger finger in the early hours of Wednesday morning but his replacement claimed it would be less stressful working for the Russian than under his former bosses at Liverpool.
Benitez’s relationship with ousted Anfield chiefs Hicks and Gillett eventually led to his departure two years ago and he said: “If you have two bosses who aren’t talking to each other, it’s difficult.
“You want a striker and one of them says: ‘I don’t know . . .’ This will be easier.”
However, Benitez’s lack of contact with Abramovich prior to last night was telling, especially as he reportedly rejected the chance to become interim manager prior to Di Matteo’s appointment in March. Despite being given the same terms this week, he signed on, having been out of the game for two years.
He said: “I don’t care about short-term. I have to win every game. We have five trophies to fight for. I will try from day one.
“In football and life, you never know. If we win some trophies in seven months, everybody will be delighted.”
Delighted enough for Benitez to keep his job when former Barcelona boss Guardiola ends his one-year sabbatical from the game? “At this moment, I’m here, I got the job,” Benitez said.
“Winning games is a guarantee for everything. If you can do it in a row, you can win trophies.
“We have won nine trophies. Can we win more? If I go to another country or continent, or a mid-table team, I could do a great job and not win trophies.
“Here there are five trophies to win. We will see.”
Benitez could not escape the suggestion he was only keeping the seat warm for Abramovich’s number one target. “I have a very good relationship with Guardiola, a great manager,” he added.
“What will happen in the future, you never know.
“For nearly two years, I was waiting for the right opportunity. Now I have this chance.
“I have to do my best to try and take it.” He added: “I don’t need to win trophies. I would like to win trophies.”
Even that has not proven to be enough for Abramovich, who sacked Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Di Matteo after they all delivered unprecedented success to Chelsea.
The Russian is said to want to see “Barcelona in blue shirts” at Stamford Bridge. “I don’t know about the style he wants, but he’ll be happy with the team winning,” said Benitez, who has a reputation for playing a more cautious game.
“It’s not about one way to play. Michael told me we have a good team and they trust me. He knew me at Valencia, and we played against Chelsea so many times. At Valencia, winning the Spanish league after 31 years, it wasn’t bad. If we play like Valencia, we can win and he’ll be happy anyway.”
The new Chelsea boss insisted he had been told nothing specific about tactics or selection but had no fears over Fernando Torres. “He is a top-class player and, with his attitude, he will do it,” he said, confirming he had spoken to the former Liverpool star after taking his first training session yesterday. “I know how good he can be, as I know how good David Luiz or Ramires can be. He’s one of the important players in this team, and I’ll try and improve him, like I will the other players.”
On Rafa’s radar: Potential recruits for Chelsea’s newmanager
Falcao tore Chelsea to shreds in the Uefa Super Cup at the start of the season – his hat-trick ensured a 4-1 victory for Atlético Madrid, but also put him in the shop window. The Colombian was already regarded as one of the best finishers in Europe following a prolific two years at Porto and, at 26, he could soon be entering the peak of his career
With John Terry’s legs creaking and the defence in need of tightening up, the Liverpool man could be the centre-half of choice. Benítez brought Skrtel to Anfield for €7.5 million in January 2008 and although he signed a long-term contract last summer, a number of clubs, including Manchester City, are understood to be monitoring his availability
Prising the Uruguayan away from Napoli would be a major coup. The 25-year-old has been a prolific scorer for the Italian club since his switch from Palermo in 2010 but would most likely demand a big transfer fee. Arsenal have also been linked with a €35 million move
Reus signed a five-year contract at Borussia Dortmund in January, so is unlikely to leave the Bundesliga champions. The 23-year-old forward, who can also play out wide, is regarded as one of the hottest properties in German football after impressing at international level
Wallace Oliveira Santos
Wallace has been a long-term target at Chelsea and the promising young right-back could be on his way to west London from Fluminense for €6 million. Chelsea have reportedly held 40 per cent of the Brazilian’s economic rights since the sale of Deco in 2010, but could soon make the deal permanent with other clubs circling