Benitez’ future in the balance
With three Chelsea managers in 2012, who will be holding the post come the end of 2013?
Last year saw the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo, after just 40 and 42 games respectively. Rafael Benitez was appointed ‘interim’ manager in November and, should he experience a successful stint reaching three finals, will have clocked-up 48 games come the end of May.
But what will happen next?
Benitez’ contract includes a clause that could see him stay on for another season if both parties are keen. Many have speculated that the Spaniard is in on approval: his longer-term future with the club dependant upon immediate success.
That, to a large extent, seems true. But it should not be overlooked that he is not the only party in this relationship that is on probation. Benitez is auditioning for more than one job right now; given the enduring managerial turmoil at Chelsea, few would begrudge him taking his labour elsewhere at the end of the season if his ‘interim’ stint results in a boost to his employability. Certainly the hints are being dropped: he rarely misses an opportunity to remind people that he started off as a coach at Real Madrid – a club which may find itself with a vacancy in the summer.
One scenario, well within the realms of possibility, involves Benitez winning Chelsea silverware, being offered a longer-term gig, and then walking away. Benitez divides Chelsea supporters; with a great many keen to see a different man at the helm.
But what might reasonably happen if he does move on in May? The favoured names for the Chelsea hot-seat are Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho. However both targets, while clearly in Chelsea’s sights, are unlikely to be interested in the Stamford Bridge job.
Guardiola doesn’t seem the sort of man to chase a big pay-day for short-term gain. The Blues’ constant turnover of coaches is not the best way to go about attracting the interest of the world’s most sought-after boss. Plus, looking at Manchester City’s recent appointment of Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain as Chief Exec and Director of Football, it doesn’t take much to join the dots between Eastlands and the man the pair appointed Barcelona boss in 2008.
How about a return to Chelsea for Mourinho? There are two issues here. Firstly: what would Jose gain by re-treading old ground? And secondly, Mourinho is clear that he will not work with a technical director: and Chelsea seem unlikely to get rid of Michael Emenalo just to please him.
All of which leaves Chelsea where? Back where they started.
From the moment Carlo Ancelotti was fired, the Blues ceased to be in contention for the big proven names in football management. As the following three appointments have shown: it is only those with much to prove, or those who have spent some time digging the garden, that are interested.
The forecast for 2013 at Stamford Bridge looks no less uncertain than what we saw in 2012.