LONDON: Rafa Benitez, Chelsea’s ninth manager in nine years, arrived at Stamford Bridge direct from Dubai to take over from sacked Roberto Di Matteo and immediately set about trying to mend fences writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The Spaniard was not a favourite choice among many Chelsea fans after his antagonistic stance while manager of Liverpool but he acknowledged to the media that his prospects of winning over hearts depended largely on results.
Benitez, who had not yet met owner Roman Abramovich, said: “For me the most important thing is I am here because I want to be here. It’s a massive club, a club which allows me to fight for trophies. I was looking for the right opportunity, I was looking for a top side who can fight for trophies.
“I don’t care about the short-term (deal), what I have in my head is to win every game. We have five trophies to fight for. We will see what happens, in seven months we can win some trophies.”
The former Inter Milan boss, who also strongly hinted John Terry would stay on as captain, said he was not put off by talk he is simply keeping the hot-seat warm for Pep Guardiola.
“I have a very good relationship with Guardiola,” he added. “He is a great manager, what will happen in future I don’t know. When you analyse why go to a top side for seven months – it’s because you can win trophies.”
Asked if he thought he would still be in the job in a year’s time, Benitez said: “If I do things properly I will be happy with trophies and then we will see.”
Benitez said he was impressed when he met the squad today.
He said: “My experience is I went to the training session today, everything was fine, they worked really well, I didn’t see any problems.”
On Fernando Torres, whom he worked with at Liverpool, he said: “I was talking with him like the other players and his attitude was really good.”
As for past battles with Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, Benitez said: “We were playing against Chelsea in the semi-finals of the Champions League. If I am a fan I want to see the manager fighting for my club. I don’t see this as a lack of respect for Chelsea’s fans, just a manager defending his team.”
He added: “I like to do things in the right way for the fans. The fans and manager want to win every single game, nobody wants to win more than than fans and manager. At the end I think that they will be pleased.”
** FIFA has rejected a request from Didier Drogba to be allowed to leave Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua on loan ahead of the transfer window. Drogba had hoped for competitive match practice ahead of Ivory Coast’s appearance in the African Nations Cup in South Africa in January and February.
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