Materazzi doesn't matter, says furious Rafa
Rafael Benitez’ mood has been soured ahead of tonight’s second leg of Chelsea’s English League Cup semi-final at Swansea City after the Spaniard reacted angrily to suggestions made by Marco Materazzi he is a “weak person” and branded the former Internazionale defender a “liar”.
The Chelsea interim manager had a fractious relationship with Materazzi during his ill-fated six-month spell in charge of Inter in 2010 and the Italian World Cup winner criticised the Spaniard’s brief tenure in November. He resumed that attack yesterday in an interview given to France Football, with Benitez visibly annoyed after reading the 39-year-old’s observations.
“In Italy everyone knows Materazzi, and at Inter everyone knows him,” he said. “He’s lying. He’s lying. He’s lying, just lying. Everything he has said is a lie. Simple. Everything he talks about: about me, about the two things he says about me when he claims he was talking to [Benitez’ predecessor at Inter, Jose] Mourinho about me coming in, and about the pictures around the club. It’s all a lie.
“Nobody knew Mourinho was leaving after the European Cup final in 2010 and no one knew the Inter position would be available. Nobody knew I was going to Inter, even me. So it’s a lie. I went there and wanted to be professional and to respect people.
“I’ve spoken to members of his family and they have told me I have to ‘learn to understand Marco’, and I wanted to be nice but everyone knows him. ”
Materazzi, a senior member of the Inter side who won the European Cup under Mourinho in 2010, rarely saw eye to eye with Benitez during that spell at San Siro and criticised the manager’s style in the interview.
“He is not my ideal coach,” he said. “If I was a club president, I’d never employ him. A great boss like Marcello Lippi or Mourinho knows how to get their demands across to a dressing room. Whereas Benitez, well, he wanted to put them all in writing, 10 or 12 rules, like the Highway Code, or being at school.
“At Inter’s training centre there were photos on the wall of all the most successful past coaches, from Helenio Herrera to Roberto Mancini and Mourinho. Benitez had the ones of Jose taken down. With that gesture, he showed his character: that of a weak person.”
Those claims were rejected directly by Benitez. Chelsea’s training complex at Cobham contains numerous pictorial references to Mourinho’s successful spell in charge from 2004-’07, during which time the club’s rivalry with Benitez’ Liverpool was at its fiercest.
Although the Spaniard insisted Materazzi should be ignored, his mood was unusually prickly as he considered how his team must overturn a two-goal deficit from the first leg to prevail at the Liberty stadium and force passage to Wembley.
Captain John Terry has travelled but is expected to start on the bench again, with Benitez still unconvinced of the defender’s match fitness and intent upon finding a more appropriate opportunity to grant him minutes on the pitch.
That could come in Sunday’s FA Cup fourth-round tie at Brentford. Terry has not started a first-team game since lasting 40 minutes of the 1-1 draw with Liverpool.
Asked if the centre half was becoming frustrated as he kicks his heels on the sidelines, Benitez replied: “No, I think he knows he will need time. We have a plan with him and we’re working, following that plan. He’s training well. He will just need match fitness because he’s only had four or five sessions with the team. But we’re happy with the specific programme he’s on.”