at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
London – Rafa Benitez pulled on his blue tie to satisfy Chelsea supporters but the colour brings him very little luck.
Three games and no wins into his reign at Stamford Bridge and there are already echoes of his ill-fated tenure at Inter Milan.
Benitez survived six months at the San Siro, winning only six of 15 Serie A games. He was never accepted by fans, players resisted his changes and his public complaints about transfer policy made it easy for president Massimo Moratti to swing the axe.
At Inter, he replaced Jose Mourinho, a hero who had just won the Champions League, and tried to dismantle the team, hitting problems at every turn.
At Chelsea, he replaced Roberto Di Matteo, a club legend as a player and the first manager to take the Champions League trophy to Stamford Bridge, and the fans are protesting at his appointment.
If, at Inter, he was the ‘Anti-Jose’, then at Chelsea he is the ‘Anti-Robbie’. If he was sacked tomorrow, the fans would celebrate so that could make dismissing him easier for Roman Abramovich. Not that the owner cares about that.
Those who watched closely as Benitez struggled in Italy recall some key problems, the main one being his relationship with a team still loyal to Mourinho. In hindsight, it seemed doomed before it began.
There is an element of this at Stamford Bridge too. There has been a turnover in the dressing room but some influential players remain from the days when Benitez was the enemy.
His training methods at Inter were blamed for a glut of muscular injuries at the start of the season and there were clashes with the medical team and doctor Franco Combi, who was close to Moratti.
He failed to convince the president to back him in the transfer market at a time when Inter were trying to spend less and he stirred up trouble with his barbed public comments on the matter.
His reign at Inter effectively ended after he won the Fifa Club World Cup in Japan then straightaway suggested the club might as well sack him if he could not sign the players he wanted.
Moratti did just that. Benitez was dismissed two days before Christmas in 2010 and spent almost two years out of work.
Today is Day 12 of his role as Chelsea’s interim manager. Next weekend he will fly back to Japan. The parallels are striking. Whether he returns with his job remains to be seen.
If he does not find the winning formula, it could yet be another blue Christmas for Benitez. – Daily Mail