El Centrocampista

Chelsea tick all the boxes as Benitez flies in to fix Fernando Torres

In a move that is sure to intrigue many La Liga fans, English Premier League side Chelsea have announced Rafael Benitez will be their new ‘interim’ manager after the Spaniard signed an 18 month contract at Stamford Bridge.

The former Valencia boss is the last non-Madrid or Barcelona coach to win La Liga and will team up with other Spanish exports Fernando Torres, Juan Mata, Oriol Romeu and Cesar Azpilicueta as Chelsea attempt to close the four point gap between the Londoners and league leaders Manchester City.

Last season’s Uefa Champions League winners may well now be forced to concentrate on domestic affairs after their 3-0 defeat at Juventus on Wednesday night all-but guaranteed Chelsea an early exit from the same competition.

Ironically, Benitez will have a direct chance to get the club’s Premier League campaign back on track  on Sunday when his new team faces league leaders City at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea’s defeat to Juventus leaves progression to the knockout stages of Europe’s Premier competition out of their hands and an early departure seems increasingly likely- a win against Nordsjaelland is a must and with Shakhtar Donetsk already qualified a draw between the Ukrainians and the Italians would send both through.

With Roberto Di Matteo all but out of the competition that won him a permanent contract, Roman Abramovich’s ever itchy trigger finger was activated once more as the man he reluctantly handed a permanent deal to had failed in one of his early objectives.

The Russian Oligarch receives a great deal of criticism from the moralising British media but his decision on this occasion is justifiable, the Premier League now becomes Chelsea’s primary objective and with an entirely surmountable four point gap from top spot, bringing in a manager renowned for maximising a teams point intake is a decision that could reap huge rewards come the end of the season.

La Liga watchers will be well aware of Benitez’ ability to win, a big proponent of the ‘one game at a time’ mantra Benitez’ would guide his Valencia team to victory after victory on their way to two league titles in a league not famed for a wealth of contenders outside of the Barcelona and Real Madrid. Once his team were in the lead, three points would almost always follow.

The same can be said of the Spaniards time at Liverpool where in 2008-2009 his cavalry, spearheaded by one Fernando Torres, would win ugly, win beautifully, come from behind, and ultimately finish four points behind Manchester United, their tally of 86 would have brought home the title in almost any other season.

Benitez isn’t likely to bring in the quality of football that Abramovich craves in such a sort amount of time. The Chelsea owner is privately known to not be entirely satisfied with the manner in which his club won the Champions League last season, criticism was fierce- their performances were labelled defensive, lucky and ugly as they went on to win the trophy.

But that won’t be a concern for 50th richest man in the World, what’s left of this season needs to be maximised and Rafael Benitez has the potential to do that, the contract length however is easily explained by Abramovich’s aforementioned desire for beautiful football, if Pep Guardiola becomes available within the next year and a half, Benitez’ 18 month contract is unlikely to be fore filled as a blank check waiting to be signed will be heading over to New York where Guardiola currently resides.

Rafael Benitez is unlikely to be too concerned by what the already outraged fans think, he’s a man whose needs were met by Chelsea, he wanted to coach in England, and he wanted to win trophies- it will take three wins to lift the League Cup at Wembley and the FA Cup is still to play for, added to that taking over a team four points off top spot in the Premier League, on paper, there could hardly of been a better opportunity for the Spaniard.

It wouldn’t even be ridiculous to rule out progression in the Champions League, with Juventus and Shakhtar going into match day six with the intention of playing out a draw, who’s to say the Ukrainians wouldn’t once again partake in some gamesmanship as they did against Nordsjaelland and snatch a late winner if the opportunity presents itself?

Benitez’ biggest challenge on course to a successful season will be to sort out Fernando Torres, only Kenny Dalglish managed to get a better goal to game ratio from the striker and Torres is known to be a huge fan of Benitez from his time at Liverpool, the manager played a huge part in him signing for the Merseyside club and also in him leaving. 33 goals were recorded when the pair previously worked together in 2008-09.

Abramovich is reliably rumoured to have turned down a move for Radamel Falcao in the summer after being offered the striker by his agent, so much was Abramovich’s investment in Torres, emotionally and financially (the highest sum he’s ever paid) that he refused to take the Colombian on more than one occasion, the last before his hattrick for Atleti against Chelsea in the Super Cup earlier this year.

It would take a brave man to bet on Benitez staying at Chelsea beyond his 18 month contract, particularly if Guardiola does become available, but in the short term this is a mutually beneficial deal that’s very astute and clever deal for both Benitez and Abramovich which could very well reap rewards when the Stamford Bridge trophy room is opened at the end of the season.

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