London – Interim Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez on Wednesday refused to be drawn on speculation that Jose Mourinho is poised to return to Stamford Bridge at the end of the season to replace him in the dug-out.
Mourinho is expected to leave Real Madrid at the end of the current campaign and dropped a hint that he could go back to his former club after Madrid were eliminated from the Champions League by Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.
The Portuguese, who won two Premier League titles, one FA Cup and two League Cups during his three-year stint at Chelsea, said: “I know I am loved by the clubs (in England), especially one.”
Benitez has accepted that he will leave Chelsea when his temporary contract expires at the end of the season, but he was reluctant to address rumours about the identity of his successor when questioned on Wednesday.
Speaking ahead of the return leg of his side's Europa League semi-final with Swiss side FC Basel, Benitez said: “It's not my business. I have to concentrate on my business, which is with Basel tomorrow.”
On Mourinho's comments, he added: “Each one has his way – my way is to concentrate on the next game, and that's it.”
Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata also shied away from discussing the probability of Mourinho's arrival, but he did give his backing to Benitez, who has faced protests from some of the club's fans since he was appointed in November.
“It's not the players' business right now,” said the Spaniard.
“We have so many important things still to come. We just have to be focused on what we're playing for, which is a very important trophy for the club, to finish third in the league so the club can qualify for the Champions League, and that's all I can say right now.”
He added: “It's tricky. It doesn't depend on me. All I can say is that we're working really, really well with Rafa, and that's the truth for me.”
Chelsea take a 2-1 lead into Thursday's game at Stamford Bridge, after David Luiz's injury-time free-kick secured victory in the first leg at St Jakob-Park last week.
The London club are bidding to add a first Europa League crown to the maiden Champions League title they won last season, but Benitez says Basel's pedigree means they cannot afford to look too far ahead.
“Obviously, as a manager you want to win every trophy you can, so we have an opportunity but my concern is that we'll be thinking we're in the final, but it's not the case,” he said.
“We play against a very good team, a team that scores goals away. Everyone has to realise it will be difficult. First of all we have to win and after we can think about the final.”
Chelsea will be without left-back Ashley Cole due to suspension, but Benitez reported no fresh injury concerns. – Sapa-AFP