Benitez calls on the Chelsea faithful to look to the future
Rafael Benitez has urged Chelsea’s senior players and supporters to accept times are changing at Stamford Bridge and warned that loyalty to the old guard, although understandable, cannot be allowed to frustrate the evolution of the squad if the club are to continue to be successful.
The interim first-team manager will include some of the team’s most experienced players in his line-up for the first leg of the English League Cup semi-final against Swansea City tonight, alongside the younger talent recruited since the summer.
The next six months will constitute a final hurrah after 12 glittering years at the club for Frank Lampard and, potentially, a similar farewell for Ashley Cole if the one-year deal that remains on the table for the England left-back is not taken up.
The process of rejuvenation, truly kickstarted after winning last season’s Champions League, will continue in the summer, with Chelsea committed to offering at best one-year deals to players in their 30s.
That will have implications for John Terry, who has entered the last 18 months of his contract and has yet to address his future with the club.
The club captain will again be absent against Swansea but will return from his knee ligament injury for the under-21s against Fulham tomorrow and will be assessed before the weekend trip to Stoke.
“It’s always easy to talk about the legends, and you have to have a lot of respect for them,” said Benitez, whose contract continues until the end of the season. “What they’ve achieved for this club has been fantastic but you have to have new players and carry on winning games. That’s what the fans are expecting. . . you have to see new players coming in. It’s part of life.
“You have to think about the future and move forward, bring in new players and try, at the same time, to bring the best out of those you have.”
Efforts are still being made to add to Benitez’ squad in the current window, with talks ongoing with Metalist Kharkiv over a fee for the Brazilian midfielder Taison Freda despite Manchester City’s interest having forced up the Ukrainian club’s asking price.
Terry will be joined on the sidelines by Petr Cech, while Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel are also unavailable for the first leg at Stamford Bridge.
“We have a lot of respect for Swansea because it is a good team and they are doing well, but this will be an interesting game for the fans.”