Surely Rafa Benitez pulled out another list of facts and had a ‘meltdown’? Hardly the case.
Did he criticise the owners or the players or raise his voice when talking about ‘nasty fans’? Again, not really.
So what did Benitez do to merit the headline: “Benítez slates Chelsea fans and burns bridges with Abramovich” from the Guardian (this comes after the ‘training ground bust-up headlines in which the story itself was at pains to point out that there was no major argument)?
Courtesy of the BBC (and they’re only doing this because Benitez was speaking to BBC Radio 5 live at the time, don’t think they’re angels or anything), here’s the full transcript of the interview:
Rafael Benitez on BBC Radio 5 live
BBC Radio 5 live: “What was a difficult first half for you in the end turned out OK?”
Rafael Benitez: “Yes, it was difficult, normally in the FA Cup it’s always difficult but I thought our team was doing well, it was a professional performance, a lot of players doing well. I was really pleased with Nathan Ake [who made his full debut] and really pleased with Paulo Ferreira because they showed they are good players and fantastic professionals. So for me, a great performance of the team and I am really pleased with the result.”
BBC: “What was your thinking about making eight changes for this game because we saw the other week when Arsenal maybe didn’t play their full team against Blackburn they lost – what was your thinking about that tonight?”
RB: “I had a lot of confidence in the players because I can see them training every day and they were doing really well, so I was really pleased, I could see in the training sessions and was really pleased, so to play them, no problem.”
BBC: “And first half, the tempo, was that quick enough for you, was that good enough for you?”
RB: “I think that they were pushing so they were working hard so it was not easy but they were doing their job.”
BBC: “How important is this FA Cup to you now? You go to Manchester United next so there are no givens.”
RB: “I think for us every game, every trophy is really important. I have been manager for 26 years, I have won the Fifa Club World Cup, the Champions League, FA Cup, a lot of trophies and I’m really a little bit disappointed with some fans, a group of fans singing and I think they are not making any favour to the team.
“They have to support the team instead of wasting time doing banners or singing songs. What they have to do is support the team and create a good atmosphere in Stamford Bridge. If we cannot achieve the target that we are looking for, to be in the Champions League… If they continue singing and talking and talking then I think they are not making any favours. They have to support the players, they have to support the team, I have experience as a manager, I will do my best until the last day.
“They gave me the title of interim manager, it’s a massive mistake. I am the manager and I will manage the team until the end, every single minute.
“If they want to carry on wasting time with these things because they have an agenda, they have to take responsibility if something is wrong. It’s not just ‘I will blame this one, I will blame the other one’, what they have to do is to support the team and then everyone has to stick together and we can achieve what we want to achieve – that is the Champions League. Simple.
“If not then next year they can carry on singing but we will be in the Europa League so they have to realise that they are not making any favour – to the rest of the fans and also to the players.”
BBC: “When you made the comments that they are talking about, some of them, you were fighting for Liverpool. There was a big rivalry with Liverpool and Chelsea, you’d expect you to say those things, is that what you’re saying?”
RB: “I am a professional, I am doing my job and I will do my job. What I want to do is, I want to win every single game for Chelsea Football Club. But, if they don’t understand this, at the end of the season, because I am interim, I will leave. They don’t need to worry about me.
“What they have to do is to support the team, to support the players. And it’s a group of people and they have an agenda. They have to realise that the rest of the fans, they want to see the team the next year in the Champions League. It’s not ‘I am right or I am wrong’, you have to see the team in the Champions League and they have to support the team, that is the main thing.
“At the end of the season I will leave, they don’t need to be worrying about me.”
Benitez was a bad choice for Chelsea, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bad manager. It also doesn’t mean that when he speaks out against fans who focus on berating the manager when the team is winning, it’s a ‘sudden outburst’ or ‘meltdown’. Let managers speak their minds without crucifying them (the idiots in the stands do this all the time).
Problem is, for all the faults (real or imaginary) that you can find with Benitez, he was spot on about the board, the fans and his comments about Chelsea when he was Liverpool manager. He shouldn’t have been titled ‘interim manager’, the spoilt fans don’t need to cheer him but they could stop jeering him and bother themselves only with the team, and frankly, Chelsea fans have said enough bad things about Rafa before and after his appointment.
What Tor-Kristian Karlsen said yesterday about managers needing their board’s backing is especially true for Chelsea right now (as it has been for former Chelsea managers). He’s there till the end of the season, so might as well give him the support he needs to get Chelsea to qualify for the Champions League next season.
Because hating him won’t get the job done.