'Sugar daddies' eroded common sense – Benitez
Rafa Benitez appears to have bitten the hand that feeds him by saying that clubs who manage "with common sense" are of a bygone era.
The interim Chelsea manager was speaking about Arsene Wenger and Arsenal's philosophy of living within their means, but the implication was clear that clubs with rich owners, such as Chelsea and Manchester City, have changed the landscape irrevocably – for better or worse.
Benitez, who could throw John Terry back into action against Arsenal tomorrow, is under contract until the end of the season at Chelsea, but his hopes of staying on longer have evaporated further after he made public his admiration for the way Arsenal conduct their business, in contrast to the "sugar-daddy model" adopted by City and Chelsea.
"Football has changed. We know since the arrival of people with big money, the Premier League has changed," Benitez said.
"To manage a club with common sense used to be fine. To have a good manager like Wenger was fine, and you could achieve things.
"Now it's a different world with clubs with big money. You cannot compare the two.
"I have a good relationship with (Wenger). He's one of the best managers, if not the best, in England for the last few years, given what he achieved and the way they do things, which is a very good way. He has won a lot and the way they have won means they have confidence in him.
"He did well when he first arrived, the style of football was good and the board and fans were happy. People talk about them not winning trophies recently, but he's a great manager. If it's difficult settling into England now, imagine what it must have been like 15 years ago."
Benitez, whose side let slip a 2-0 lead against Southampton on Wednesday night, having lost their two previous home games against Swansea and Queen's Park Rangers, says he could bring back Terry for his leadership qualities, even though the Chelsea captain is short of match fitness after his injury.
"He is one of the strong characters and to have people with this mentality can help. Hopefully, he will be fine and we will see a positive influence for the rest of the season in the team," Benitez said. Chelsea were booed off the pitch after Wednesday night's draw, but Benitez believes an upturn in results will be the catalyst to bringing the fans back onside. "To win will always help. We have to win together. If we win, I'm sure they'll be happy," he said.
During Jose Mourinho's time in particular, visitors to Stamford Bridge could count themselves lucky if they emerged with anything other than a hiding. Indeed, Benitez only won there once in 12 attempts during his time at Liverpool.
Benitez's Chelsea, on the other hand, have lost to QPR and Swansea at home since he took over in November, but the 52-year-old claims he can put a stop to all the jeering and make Stamford Bridge a place teams dread visiting once more.
"It was always tough, always difficult when I went to Stamford Bridge (as Liverpool boss)," said Benitez, whose only home victory in the league was an 8-0 thrashing of Aston Villa on December 23.
"We will try to make it the same. It was (like that) for Aston Villa. After that everyone was scared.
"The atmosphere doesn't affect the players. We are professionals and we concentrate on our job," Benitez added.
"It's a question of the tactics of other teams, if they're deep or not. Arsenal are a top team. They won't be 11 men behind the ball on the edge of the box waiting. It's a different kind of game."
The fact that Benitez has only been handed a contract until the end of the season suggests that Roman Abramovich will dispense with his services in June.
Pep Guardiola's decision to take up the reins at Bayern Munich has once again rekindled the curiosity about who will take over from Benitez in the summer, with Diego Simeone, Jurgen Klopp and Michael Laudrup the latest figures to be linked with the post.
Benitez would not be drawn on the effect Guardiola's appointment would have on his long-term future and insisted talk about who will manage the Blues next season is not affecting him.
"It's fine," Benitez said when asked about the speculation. "The only way to do your job properly is to carry on analysing the game, talking to people, and being up to date." (© Independent News Service)
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