From the outside looking in, it would appear that the planets are aligning for Rafa Benitez.
If you subscribe to the theory of Occam’s Razor – that the most obvious explanation is usually correct – then it would seem that the Liverpool boss will be stepping into Jose Mourinho’s recently-vacated hand-stitched loafers sooner rather than later.
The Spaniard has allegedly been offered a compromised £3 million ‘golden handshake’ to terminate his contract at Liverpool with immediate effect and, according to quotes in today’s Il Corriere dello Sport, Inter Milan are waiting with open arms to snap him up as soon as the terms of his seemingly imminent Anfield departure are finalised.
A brief snippet of the Italian newspaper’s report reveals that Inter (or more precisely, Inter director Gabriele Oriali) have been tracking Benitez since Liverpool’s Champions League win at the business end of the 2004/05 season;
“We really like [Rafael Benitez] and he is in our favour since the Champions League final in Istanbul.”
Seems like this whole ugly debacle is edging toward a somewhat foregone conclusion doesn’t it?
Well, yes actually, it does.
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The other front runner in the frame to take the newly-vacated Inter helm was England manager Fabio Capello, but the FA have since confirmed that the veteran Italian coach has now signed a revised version of his contract, removing the release clause that would’ve had to have been triggered in order to free him up to seek employment elsewhere and tying him to England until the next European Championships in 2012.
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson is another unsuspecting fellow that has found himself linked with being charged to succeed ‘The Special One’ at the Nerazzurri.
The boys over on the Soccerlens Podcast (which is really rather excellent this week) certainly seem to think that Hodgson is a more than viable alternative to Benitez, with his tendency to put an arm around his players seemingly more in tune with Mourinho’s ‘us-against-the-world’ coaching method – as opposed to the Liverpool manager’s well-documented stand-offish (and potentially alienating) approach.
Personally, I can’t see Hodgson returning (he spent two separate stints at Inter during the 1990’s) to the pressure cooker of Milan’s footballing maelstrom at this late stage in his career.
He has a good thing going in West London (a job to which he is perfectly suited) and by all accounts is steadily starting to refit his Fulham squad to build on last year’s laudable Europa League showing.
Although, what do I know? You can probably now expect to see ‘Uncle Woy’ unveiled in front of a capacity crowd at the San Siro by early this evening if my prediction track record is anything to go by.
The Inter Milan top brass have also apparently approached Guus Hiddink to fill their vacancy, but the Dutchman has reiterated that he is set on seeing out his contract with the Turkish national team.
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So, with a dearth of other prospective candidates, it would appear that Rafa Benitez can almost afford to stroll straight into the managerial hot-seat at Inter, but what will be awaiting for him should he take the job?
Inter Milan won just about everything going last term but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Rafa will be taking control of a squad punch-drunk on harmony and high morale.
Many of the Inter players have already expressed either their disappointment over the departure of Mourinho (who has, you might have seen, decided to try his hand at Real Madrid) or just come right out and pleaded with their former boss to take them to the Bernabeu with him – most notably Brazilian right-back Maicon, who has openly issued come-and-get-me plea (or should that be a ‘take-me-with-you’ plea?), telling Spanish paper AS;
“What I want is to play at Madrid and for me it would be an honour to be able to do that because I’ve already said it would be a great opportunity in my career.”
The phrase ‘no uncertain terms’ doesn’t really do that quote justice.
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Now of course, nothing is certain in the world of football and it may turn out that Rafa leaving Liverpool and Inter Milan’s seemingly coercive niceties are merely pure co-incidence – although this does seem a little unlikely to me – what is for sure, however, is that should the aforementioned ‘forgone conclusion’ materialise, Inter Milan will be getting themselves a decent, proven, imperfect, perfectionist of manager.
Remember what Occam said…