The emergence of rumours linking Rafa Benitez to a return to the Chelsea hotseat have been met with incredulity by the Chelsea faithful, but he really is the perfect man for the job.
Working off a shoestring budget is Benitez’s forte and, the good news for him is, Chelsea can’t spend any money.
He is a lot better suited to the job than most people think and here are six reasons we believe he will flourish in his second coming at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea’s transfer ban
Chelsea’s inability to sign any players suits Benitez down to the ground. The Spaniard has spent the last three years in the employ of Mike Ashley and has grown accustomed to not bringing anyone in.
Who better to lead Chelsea into this period of transfer market stagnation than the man who has spent the equivalent of €20 since taking the job at Newcastle?
Chelsea have already lost their best player and whoever ends up as manager will need to be able to get the best out of the guys already at their disposal. Benitez has proved that consistently throughout his managerial career.
He has always been able to squeeze the most out of mediocre squads, and Chelsea minus Eden Hazard fit that bill nicely.
He’s a genuinely good manager
His disastrous stint at Real Madrid aside, Benitez has done well wherever he has gone. He is obviously revered at Liverpool – where he won the club their first Champions League in over 20 years, but his spell at Valencia arguably represents his most impressive as a manager.
There he guided the club to their first league title in over 30 years in his first season before guiding them to another just two seasons later. Benitez shook up the duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain, and it’s telling that Valencia have not won the league since his departure in 2004. Yes, they had a very good team that had been in consecutive Champions League finals, but Benitez helped Valencia to bridge the toughest gap of them all and land an elusive league title.
That’s not to mention the minor miracle he has performed at Newcastle on a shoestring budget. Benitez is an excellent coach with over 20 years of experience. He has proven to move with the times as well, and is still respected by football fans 20 years after his managerial debut. The same can’t be said for some of his fellow managers.
Mark Hughes, Sam Allardyce and David Moyes have all enjoyed careers of a similar length to Benitez, but all of them have shown a refusal to adapt to the times. Benitez continues to adapt his approach and the result is him being linked to a top job, while the others are on the point of being blacklisted.
Benitez is a master of European competitions. It is often forgotten just how poor the Liverpool side to win the Champions League in 2005 actually was. Any manager that wins a European Cup with Djimi Traore starting at left back deserves a statue.
Aside from that Champions League win, Benitez guided Liverpool to another final two years later and salvaged Chelsea’s season in 2013 by winning the Europa League. He wasn’t much liked at Stamford Bridge, probably because of his history of dumping Chelsea out of the Champions League with Liverpool, but their season was already over by the time he took charge.
He also won a league and European trophy double during his last season with Valencia, guiding them to a UEFA Cup triumph following a 2-0 win against Marseille.
With Chelsea back in the Champions League picture this season, Benitez is one of the best candidates to lead them to European glory.
With Newcastle set to be taken over by Sheikh Khaled and the Bin Zayed group, it makes sense that Benitez would move on. Staying at Newcastle after they have been transformed from one of the stingiest clubs in the league to one that can afford to buy almost any player in the world would be poor form from Benitez.
Staying at a club that is now just 22/1 to sign Kylian Mbappe wouldn’t be a true reflection of his time at The Magpies.
The honourable thing to do would be to walk away now before his memory of Newcastle is tarnished by the arrival of actual money.
Chelsea’s loan players
Chelsea have a staggering 41 players returning from various loan spells this summer. Some of them look extremely promising.
At Liverpool, Benitez built up a reputation as a shrewd operator in the transfer market by buying inexpensive players and developing them into Liverpool stalwarts.
He obviously wouldn’t be able to do that at Chelsea because of the transfer ban, but he would be able to take his pick from a diverse pool of loan players.
With the likes of Mason Mount, Reece James, Michy Batshuayi and Tammy Abraham all returning to Chelsea this summer, they would be likely to flourish under Benitez’s tutelage.
Newcastle contract situation
Forgetting about Newcastle’s imminent takeover for a moment, the real issue at the club is that they have let Benitez’s contract run down to its final two weeks. It is farcical that that has happened.
Without Benitez, Newcastle surely would have been relegated to the Championship either this season or last, and it is debatable whether they would have even won their promotion in 2017 without him at the helm.
Since all Benitez wanted from the contract negotiations was a guarantee of spending, this is all Mike Ashley’s doing.
Benitez should walk away from the Newcastle job purely because of the disrespect he has been shown, and the Chelsea job is the most lucrative offer on the table.
* All odds correct at time of posting and may vary up to kick-off.