Jose Mourinho is a tough act to follow. Avram Grant and Luiz Felipe Scolari can tell you all about that. Porto also had to go through four managers before Jesualdo Ferreira grabbed the throne and hasn’t let go. Rafa Benitez, whose star shined the brightest on a magical evening near Istanbul Turkey over 5 years ago, is the next manager to fail and live up to the huge achievements and expectations the ‘special one’ left behind him.
After a disastrous season with Liverpool in 2009-2010, Benitez left Anfield and was signed by Massimo Moratti to keep Inter’s title streak (5 consecutive Serie A titles, 2 with Mourinho) and lead the to another charge at a treble. Maybe an impossible task. Benitez couldn’t refuse. The money, the prestige and the chance to prove he’s Mourinho’s equal. The two had quite a few moments of conflict, by words, back in the Premiership.
Benitez couldn’t do the job. Maybe he never really got it going with the players, who missed their old manager too much. Mourinho is a people person, there’s no doubt about that. Behind all the arrogance is a warm person, who gets close to his players and as long as he has faith in them, will take the press bullets for them. Benitez is a lot more stand-offish, and with a veteran squad, back after winning everything in 2009-2010 and many key players after record seasons and a World Cup, the fall had to come. But it was much more painful and sharp than expected.
After 15 league matches, Inter are 7th, 13 points behind AC Milan with two games in hand. They lost the derby. They missed out on the Super Cup, losing to Atletico Madrid. A title like the Club World Cup doesn’t mean a lot to European mega-clubs. Benitez acted like he was giving up on league matches in order to prepare the squad well for the CWC. Spins. Sneijder and Zanetti spoke out about missing Jose Mourinho. Samuel Eto’o was the only player that seemed to thrive under the new manager. Too little, and not enough for a team that was founded on a very strong defensive game, which led to the success. Injuries, age and yes, an inferior manager, meant Inter 2010-2011 were just less of a team that last year.
Benitez’ words after beating Mazembe, sort of putting an ultimatum in the face of Moratti were the final straw. Now Rafa is gone with a nice fat severance package I believe. Where to now? Anywhere that needs a manager. Teams in Russia always offer handsome pay. No Champions League club is available or willing to take him on, although the troubles at Chelsea could provide a hint about Benitez’ next destination, doesn’t matter how far fetched. Maybe Man City? I think Sevilla should be the most probable target. The team is going through their worst season in ages, ranked 11th. Maybe a return to Spain might do Benitez some good.
Some even say he might be returning to Anfield, given Hodgson’s disappointing start. Hodgson says it’s far fetched, hiring back a manager that was sacked about six months ago, but with Liverpool under new ownership, who knows where the wind will take Benitez, who was very popular among the Anfield faithful. And what about Inter? Some say Capello, but Milan’s former head coach, Leonardo, somewhat of a yes-man who won’t talk back to Moratti seems likely candidate.