Friday, March 1, 2013

Benítez and Chelsea: the inevitable breakup

The Rafael Benítez experiment at Chelsea has quickly and predictably moved into an endgame as inevitable as it will be tedious.  The Spaniard will depart Stamford Bridge at the end of the season –perhaps much, much sooner – after presiding over half a season of rebellious players, fractious fan groups and disappointing English Premier League season.

In a curious press conference after win at Middlesbrough in the FA Cup, the Interim Chelsea boss delivered a long-winded (and loaded) response to question that might earn him his P45 far earlier than his preferred departure date.  In his lengthy statement, Benítez railed at his “Interim” title and at fans he thought – correctly –had never wanted him at the Blues in the first place.

Like many relationships, the Chelsea/ Benítez affair failed for one simple reason: the parties involved simply weren’t right for each other in the first place.  Abramovich and his board were on the rebound, a fact Benitez knew and accepted.  However, knowing that chances to step out on the arm of such an eligible club don’t come along that often, he hoped that a winning smile and ready-to-please personality might entice Roman into something more permanent.

But the groundwork for the break-up was laid even before the fling started.  An antagonistic relationship with Chelsea fans and a penchant for squad rotation wasn’t a great starting place for Benítez, while Abramovich is a managerial commitment-phobe on a level with James Bond and Hugh Hefner.  He has, and will continue to, move between managerial starlets and stalwarts alike with ready ease.

Sometimes when a break-up is inevitable, parties visibly plan exit strategies days, weeks or even months in advance.  Wednesday’s presser was just that – Benítez has realized the partnership is bad for both of them and has started making unmuffled noises about moving forward unattached.

Rafa Benítez never stood a chance to end up as an Abramovich long-termer – there was just too much baggage to begin with.

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