Benitez and Ferguson have never been close and Chelsea's new interim manager said, without much prompting, that he had always thought Wenger was a superior leader.
"There are a lot of good managers in the world, many who have won trophies," Benitez said. "I don't like to talk too much about other managers. When I came to England I knew the other managers here. Arsene Wenger is the best manager there has been here for a while. But I cannot talk about these things every day."
Benitez had only been Chelsea manager for a few hours when Ferguson (right) said he was "lucky", and he asserted his right to respond to criticism.
"I like to talk about my team, about football," he said. "But if some people push you, if you want to win, maybe you have to push back."
Benitez and Ferguson fought a tight Premier League title race in 2008-09, in which the latter triumphed, and Benitez said that acrimony was a natural result of competition. "You're playing to win trophies, and only one can win it," he explained. Some managers in the middle of the table can be friendly, but only one wins it. People try to win in different ways. I like to respect people, but the problem is sometimes I cannot because they push you."
“I was over 20 years in the Real Madrid academy,” Benitez said.
“To be first is the only thing I understand. To be second is to be unhappy. I want to be first, to challenge, and I want to compete to win trophies. You can improve teams, but that is not the same as winning trophies. I like to win trophies.”
Benitez hopes that this will endear him to the Chelsea supporters. “All fans, around the world, know the manager wants to win. They prefer a manager with a winning mentality rather than one who finishes seventh or eighth.”
Fernando Torres was one of the stars of Benitez’s Liverpool team but he has lost form at Chelsea.
Benitez sounded relaxed about his hopes of getting the best out of him. “You don’t need too much time talking with Fernando,” he said. “I know him, but he knows me and what we’re looking for. I have to spend more time with the others. Fernando is easy.”
(© Independent News Service)