Tuesday 23 January 2018

Benitez next in line to quell mutiny at the Bridge


Chelsea beat Bolton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge yesterday but Andre Villas-Boas remains in a job only as long as it takes Roman Abramovich to negotiate a deal for his successor.

Abramovich's advisors have approached Rafael Benitez about taking over, and if Benitez had agreed to a contract until the summer, AVB would have lost his job before yesterday's game.

Instead he survived to watch his side beat Bolton 3-0 and move back into the top four, but it will require a lot more for him to be in the job in the summer. It may be impossible at this stage.

Villas-Boas denied after the game that defeat to Bolton would have cost him his job. Defeat to Napoli last Tuesday probably took care of that.

He gave a typically tetchy defence last night, insisting he had not explained his team selection from the Napoli defeat to Abramovich and that stories linking him with the Inter Milan job were just "speculation".

He recalled Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien yesterday. Lampard scored and played "fantastically well" according to his manager. The trio's absence on Tuesday remains a symbol of the problem, but those problems go deeper.

Abramovich is eager to bring Pep Guardiola to the club in the summer, which is why Benitez has only been offered a short-term contract.

Benitez, like Fabio Capello, wants at least another year on the deal but he may not get another opportunity to take a big club and restore his strangely diminished reputation.

The reality is that all Chelsea managers operate on short-term contracts as the swift decline of AVB has demonstrated.

If Benitez took the job until the summer and secured fourth place he would help his own standing in football and salvage something of Chelsea's season. He would also hope to get more from Fernando Torres, who is believed to be eager to be re-united with the manager who brought him to England. Torres was left out of the Spanish squad last week and his future, as much as his manager's, looks bleak.

Inter were said to be offering a way out but AVB answered in a way which didn't suggest he is secure, as he likes to say.

"There isn't a job vacancy in Inter Milan and I'm not looking for a job. I have great involvement in the future of Chelsea. At the moment, it's just speculation."

He also suggested the press had been mistreating him when he was asked if he had picked Cole, Lampard and Essien at Abramovich's behest.

"To have a good relationship and empathy between us there should be a degree of respect for my professionalism and the day I feel disrespected you will find a different person speaking to you."

Soon there may well be a different person speaking as Chelsea's manager.

See Page 9

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