Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez has already endured so much in his short reign as the Chelsea manager, after taking over from Roberto Di Matteo.
The former Liverpool was brought in as an interim manager following the Blues' defeat to Juventus in the Champions League, and despite a less-than-ideal reception from the fans to begin with, he is seemingly starting to grow into his role at the club.
The Blues are starting get results, the players are starting to fire together and Benitez is slowly—ever so slowly—winning over the West London fans.
So does he deserve the full time managers position at the end of the season? Has the Spaniard done enough at the club so far to prove himself?
According to the man himself, the answer would be yes.
Benitez spoke out after the Blues' loss to Swansea City during the week, and made clear his desire to remain at Stamford Bridge long-term.
I want to be at a top side and Chelsea is a top side with great potential. It is a great opportunity. My contract is clear, but you don't know.
I have had conversations [about staying] with the people in charge and the owner. They know my ideas and they listen to me and we talk.
The interim manager's chances of remaining on at Stamford Bridge at the end of the season do seem slim given the current choices available. Jose Mourinho is seemingly the front-runner given his growing discontent from Real Madrid, with Everton boss David Moyes' also touted as an option.
Yet perhaps the thing most against Benitez is the lack of support he has always had from those at Chelsea—both in management and the fans.
Cries of "Rafa Out" and "there's only one di Matteo" have littered his managerial reign so far, and he has been unable to escape the stigma from being the former Liverpool manager and subsequent rival of the West London club.
Throw in the indifferent record that Benitez has had at the club so far, and it seems, for now anyway, unlikely that he will be asked to stay on.
Chelsea have bombed out in the Champions League group stage, the Capital One Cup semifinals and the Club World Cup final.
They've won won just six of their 11 league matches under Benitez. Moreover, they've dropped points against the likes of West Ham, Fulham, Southampton and Queens Park Rangers, with the latter three taking place at Stamford Bridge in front of their home fans.
Yet, in spite of all this, Benitez found for optimism in the situation, and told reporters to "put the stats together" to find his "success" at the club.
The money that was spent, the position and [Club World Cup in] Japan, the African Cup of Nations. Put these things together and you will see new players and a transition period and are we doing well? We are going in the right direction.
If you analyse all the managers, how many had pre-season here? Not me. How many spent massive money here? Not me. How many managers had to go to Japan in the middle of the season with players injured and had players in the African Cup of Nations? So, it is just only me.
The reality is that if you put everything together, you will see why we are happy in the way we are doing things and the way the team is progressing. I came in the middle of the season, so I could not change too many things. I had to work with the squad I had.
At some level, credit must be given to Benitez for all of that, and also for his performance against the big teams within the English Premier League.
Despite dropping to poor teams as mentioned above, the Blues haven't lost to a team inside the top half of the table under Benitez. In addition, they won on several difficult away trips including journeys to the Stadium of Light (Sunderland), Carrow Road (Norwich City) and the Britannia Stadium (Stoke City)—a feat that no other team has been able to do this season.
He has the Blues in up to third in the league and once again in contention for a top-four finish, though not that it was ever really in doubt for the club.
Throw in the fact that he was able to bring in star striker Demba Ba for just £7 million and, suffice to say, Benitez has done not too badly at Chelsea. The moves, the results, the current situation—all are nowhere near as bad as some portray the situation to be.
So does he deserve a new contract at the West London club?
On current results and performances, I'd say yes.
Benitez was given the raw end of the stick when he took over the club, and he's taken an awful lot of pressure and criticism as a result. Whether that was his fault or not we'll never truly know, but the fact remains that the situation upon his arrival was less than ideal.
And yet in spite of that, he's managed good results against the top clubs, and has the Blues in a strong position domestically once more.
He might be out of the Capital One Cup and might have lost the Club World Cup, but Roman Abramovich has shown that such titles don't matter one bit to him. After all, Di Matteo won the FA Cup and he was still removed from the club in an instant.
Bentiez has done enough to prove himself worthy of hanging around at the Blues for another season—even if some of the fans don't see it that way., He has them competitive in the English competition this year, and as a result, will have them competitive and improved in Europe next season.
Whether he deserves another contract or not and whether he gets another contract or not, however, are two different questions all together.
Jose Mourinho is seemingly the flavor of the month for the Blues and will most likely take over at Stamford Bridge at the end of the season. But that's not to say that Benitez doesn't deserve to keep his job any more or any less than the former Chelsea boss Mourinho.
The Spaniard has done remarkably well under pressure this season, and should be judged on everything that he's done at the club so far. Much of that work is no doubt still to be done, but if it continues like it has so far, the 52-year-old should definitely receive a full-time contract.
Yet Mourinho will be the new boss this summer and the Chelsea fans will no doubt rejoice at the fact that their prodigal son has finally come home.
And to me, that will be the club's biggest mistake of them all.
Does Rafa Benitez deserve a new contract at Chelsea this year?
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