Roberto Di Matteo won Chelsea a trophy that is coveted by just about every major club in Europe: the UEFA Champions League title. They beat two established teams of the competition against all odds in Barcelona and Bayern München to do so.
He earned the trust of his players; his players won the Champions League by trusting each other, not by outplaying opponents. Unity also saw the Blues achieve FA Cup glory. Suddenly, the bad period under Andre Villas-Boas became something of the past. In a blink of an eye, Roberto Di Matteo installed a strong feeling of confidence in the camp and the team clinched the double.
This season, Chelsea sat at the top of the Premier League table for a while. They had begun playing positive football for the first time in a long while and were entertaining their fans. All in all, the Italian did not deserve the sack.
Considering the odds of Chelsea getting knocked out in the first round of the Champions League in a week’s time, the answer is perhaps ‘yes’. Chelsea was placed in a tough group. Everyone knew that the team would need plenty of luck to retain their title. However, losing in the first round is perhaps a tad unacceptable at a club like Chelsea. All the same, the Blues are not out of the competition yet. In fact, they could even qualify for the Round of 16 considering Juventus have not always been very convincing this season and could lose to Shaktar.
Benitez has won the same title which Chelsea had wanted for years. However, in his tenure at Liverpool, Benitez’s side was looked upon as a ‘European side’ due to his failure to win them a league title. The Spaniard won the league with Valencia in Spain. He has shown that he can win league titles. He is capable of getting results with, if required, even a pragmatic approach.
He should fit in right at Chelsea after a few weeks provided he utilizes his attacking players properly. Nevertheless, he faces two huge tasks to accomplish: to win the respect of the entire dressing room and to gain the love of the fans.
Benitez is more experienced than his Italian counterpart. Meanwhile, Di Matteo knows Chelsea FC better than most as he played for them and managed them as well. Records might declare Benitez as the better manager. However, for this job only, Di Matteo is perhaps the better of the two.
Yes, he can. He has managed in three of the toughest leagues in the world. Benitez spent more time than most managers at the helm of Liverpool. The Spaniard has been through situations where he lacked support from the board. He has won different titles with every club he has managed. Thus, he should do just fine at the Bridge to overcome his critics and evaporate the pressure.
As far as finances are concerned, Benitez should not have a problem. However, Chelsea has bought a lot of players this summer and Roman Abramovich will expect Benitez to get the best out of the ones available. Benitez has many names who can play wonderful football at his disposal. However, those lads are not necessarily capable of playing defensively when required.
Benitez might want some new players but Abramovich might just not allow any more transfers this season, especially considering their chances of progression in the Champions League are slim. Interestingly, Chelsea might choose not to strengthen the backline, but to bolster their attack. One name comes to mind: Atletico Madrid's Radamel Falcao. In that case, the Colombian star may partner or replace Fernando Torres.
Speaking about Spanish international Torres, he has now been reunited with his former Liverpool boss, Rafael Benitez. Roman Abramovich, who splashed 50 million pounds on the table for the striker's signature in January 2011, would like to see some serious improvement. It now seems like Fernando Torres will be seating on a time bomb if he ever fails to recapture the outstanding form which saw him reach high standard under Rafa at Anfield.
Fernando Torres did not start the Champions League final last season and was angry. In fact, he did not merit a start considering his form and statistics. No manager has been able to get the best out of Torres since his move to Stamford Bridge. He has become the topic of many a joke amongst the fans.
However, as recalled above, Roman Abramovich had spent 50 million pounds on Torres. Hence, he wants the Spaniard to be a success. Abramovich wants to get the best out of the former Liverpool striker and thus Torres might indeed have played a part in his decision to sack Di Matteo. Benitez is the one who got the best out of Torres and might do so again.
The rivalry may not really change. Benitez left Liverpool almost two years ago and the club has experimented with several managers since then. Merseyside Reds fans at the end of the day obviously remember the fact that Rafa won them their last major trophy - the 2006 FA Cup. He will perhaps be welcomed to Anfield warmly rather than be received coldly.
Chelsea are definitely title contenders. However, the Manchester clubs are looking strong. Still, it is too early to know yet whether Benitez can do it. Getting knocked out of the Champions League will certainly help his cause. Also, it will depend on Chelsea’s style of play. Against City, they seemed happy to get a point but there is much more the Blues' talented squad can do to get maximum points. Provided everything works out the proper way, Rafael Benitez could definitely get a first Premier League title with a club not named Liverpool.
Chelsea fans might be unhappy currently. FA Cup and Champions League winning boss Roberto Di Matteo did not have a proper end to his managerial career at Stamford Bridge. He won two trophies in 2012, lost two crucial matches in a row this season and got the sack on November 21 this year. The Italian had a special bond between his players and the fans. The latter, who had no say on Roman Abramovich's decision to sack Di Matteo, raised their voices to boo Rafael Benitez as the ex-Liverpool coach made his Chelsea debut against Manchester City at the Bridge.
In fact, many Blues supporters still cannot believe how Roberto Di Matteo got replaced by Rafael Benitez within a single day. However, they should not forget that the man who made Chelsea a ‘big club’ in terms of standard on the European stage is Roman Abramovich. The Russian puts in unbelievable amounts of money into the club. He desires nothing but success for Chelsea FC.
Even if he does not go about things the right way, his intentions are the right ones. Fans must remember this. He might be unpopular at the moment but he is certainly not the most unpopular owner in the history of the game.