Thursday, November 25, 2010

Rafa's style too different?

Even though Inter Milan won their Champions League encounter yesterday with FC Twente - thanks to a goal from Esteban Cambiasso - rumblings picked up by seismographs within the Inter Milan camp suggest that all is not well at the San Siro. The Nerazzuri sit well behind where they were this time last year under Jose Mourinho as their recent loss in the Milan derby combined with the weekend's defeat to Chievo thrust yet more pressure upon His Réal Obduracy, Rafael Benitez. To a manager lacking Benitez's status, reputation and contract, commanding the equation of their league position plus going down to the arch-rivals from the red side of town may have equalled unemployment benefits.

With the Inter Milan squad remarkably unchanged much from last year's UCL winners this early lack of success prompts questions as to whether their managerial choice has been paradisiacal. It is early doors, but the Nerazzuri sit nine points in arrears of league leaders AC Milan and four points adrift of the Champions League qualification places. In and of itself, those four points can be easily made up with the talent on hand but more concerning are allegations that Rafa yet again has had difficulty communicating with his charges, culminating with refuted accusations that goalscorer Cambiasso asked for the manager to be replaced.

These aren't the first rumours that Benitez doesn't communicate well, even though it may simply be a case of outsiders forever looking for reasons why a team underperforms. In the realm of rumour though, this one tends to the believable due to Rafa preference for a more removed role as boss twinn'd with his recent trend of speaking to the media in quite obtuse metaphor and simile: recently his press conferences have included references to Spanish phrases involving priests standing upon mountains of sugar. Needless to say, much was lost in translation and many - pundits and players alike - were left scratching their heads. Fair or not, Benitez must be aware that public opinion of him is shaped by what he says to pressmen and as such references which don't translate well (or at all) are unlikely to reflect well on him.

When his slightly awkward public manner - at least in English - is compared to his silvertail predecessor, Rafa can sometimes give the impression of being prone to faux pas and occasionally a teensy little bit whiny. He has proved his capabilities as a manager and is a fine one but his accomplishments are unfortunately overshadowed by the public perception of his character. The final arbiters are always results and with five wins and five losses so far on the season, Benitez's removed style could be too much a diametric opposite to the fast-talking, always-supportive and charismatic Mourinho. Even though Benitez was the most high-profile manager available and came with the best credentials to replace the departing Jose, perhaps his contrasting personal style should have been weighed up against the style of a manager who'd achieved such outstanding success with the same group of players.

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