Chelsea set for another spending spree
Benitez says €100m will be spent this summer providing new players for his successor
Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez and his coaching staff pose with the Europa League trophy after victory over Benfica in Amsterdam. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Few managers wrap up their post-match press conference and then head for the player mixed zone. However, Rafa Benitez looked for a while as if he might have to turn the lights out in the Amsterdam Arena on Wednesday night as Spanish reporters took it in turns to press phones to his ear for radio interviews while the last of the Chelsea team filed past and headed for the bus.
Back in Spain, his status is bound to have been enhanced by his short stint at Stamford Bridge and, with the Malaga job amongst those likely to be free over the close season, why would he pass up the opportunity of a little marketing?
Still, it must have been with a little envy that the former Liverpool boss suggested in the wake of Wednesday’s dramatic win over Benfica that Chelsea plan to spend €100 million this summer on three or four new players.
“The foundation is already there,” he observed. “The future is bright for them.” He went on to deny any knowledge of who his replacement in west London will be but acknowledged nevertheless that “everyone speculates the same person”.
It may still not be a sure thing but speculation regarding that person is so advanced that many have moved on to compiling lists of the players Jose Mourinho might bring with him. Whatever happens with the manager , though, some freshening up of the squad will have to be done if Roman Abramovich is serious about the club challenging for the Premier and Champions Leagues next season.
Their attacking midfield unit might be forgiven for having an off night in Amsterdam; it, after all, has produced a disproportionate number of this season’s goals. The defence being poor is nothing new, however, with just four cleans sheets in their last 14 games – the odd part being that two of them were against Manchester United – pointing to a particular weakness.
Both they and neighbours City can be expected to spend in support of new managers over the summer which ups the ante for Chelsea given that they have, as things stand, 16 and six points to make up on the first- and second-placed clubs.
In a normal club the scope for change might be limited by the need to offload players but Chelsea are far from that and if needs be, others may simply be consigned to internal exile as Florent Malouda was this year when he declined, in the absence of a suitable offer, to move on.
Some may be given the benefit of the doubt based on long service and strong form. Despite his age, for instance, allowing Frank Lampard to go would have been bizarre after the season he has had and the club’s supporters will have been relieved yesterday to see he has signed a new one-year deal.
But time really does seem to have caught up on John Terry; the problem being that none of the alternatives looks as good as he consistently did a few seasons ago and even earlier this season the number of goals conceded dropped significantly when he was in the team.
Chelsea are far more likely to spend heavily on a proven striker despite the impressive form of Romelu Lukaku who, it seems, is to be loaned out again next year
If Fernando Torres scored in the league like he does in Europe there would probably not be an issue at all but the reality is his domestic league goal last came in the 8-0 drubbing of Aston Villa.
And a holding midfielder wouldn’t go amiss t because John Obi Mikel has rarely looked anything other than a poor man’s Claude Makelele.
Benitez leaves having achieved as much as could reasonably have been expected during his time with the club and while he might envy his successor, the job will not be easy next year.
Match winner Branislav Ivanovic summed it up well after the dramatic end to Wednesday’s final. “With Chelsea,” he said smiling,” there is always drama. It is always interesting.”
Love them or hate them, it’s hard to deny that.