Rafa Benitez Finally Cracks Under the Chelsea Pressure, but Is He Right?
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Chelsea may have defeated Middlesbrough 2-0 in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday, but it seems Rafa Benitez will not be around to see the Blues take on Manchester United in the quarterfinal a week from Sunday.
In a sensational post-match interview with BBC Five Live's Alastair Yeomans, Chelsea's interim manager finally cracked under the pressure with a rant—not only at the club's fans but also at the very people who employed him as Roberto Di Matteo's replacement in November.
Benitez said, "I'm a little disappointed with some fans or a group of fans singing and I don't think they are making any favor to the team. They have to support the team instead of wasting time doing banners or singing songs.
"What they have to do is support the team and create a good atmosphere at Stamford Bridge. If we cannot achieve the target that we are looking for, to be in the Champions League, if they continue singing and talking and talking, I think they are not making any favor.
"They have to support the players. They have to support the team. I have experience as a manager and I will do my best until the last day.
"They [the club] put me in the title of interim manager. It's a massive mistake. I am the manager and I will manage the team until the end, every single minute.
"If they [the fans] want to carry on wasting time with things because they have an agenda, they have to take responsibility [if] something is wrong. It's not just 'we play this one or we play the other one', what they have to do is support the team and we can achieve what we want to achieve. That is the Champions League. It's simple.
"If not, then next year, they can carry on singing but we will be in the Europa League."
Benitez continued, "At the end of the season, I will leave. They don't need to worry about me."
He continued in a similar vein in his press conference. It seems the Spaniard has finally had enough of the taunts that have defined his tenure at Stamford Bridge. In truth, he has a point.
For Chelsea to succeed, Benitez must also succeed. It's a simple fact. Supporters across the game often like to recite the cliche that no one person is bigger than his club, but in this instance, Blues fans have proved that statement false.
It's to be admired that Chelsea supporters have shown their affection for Di Matteo since his dismissal and the subsequent appointment of Benitez, but at what cost? Chelsea sit fourth in the Premier League, with an inspired Tottenham Hotspur one point ahead and Arsenal a further two back.
Should Benitez be fired for his comments?
The team's form is patchy at best, and they are in desperate need of some consistency to make sure of Champions League football next season. Failing to progress in the group stages this term has already cost the club an estimated £25 million, and with Financial Fair Play rules on the horizon, they can hardly afford to miss out on the competition altogether next year.
The club is in a battle, and it's enough taking on rivals each week, let alone battling internally with the team's own supporters come matchday. The protests against Benitez should have ended a long time ago.
From being a positive sign of the supporters' passion for the club, the longevity has come to resemble the rants of a spoiled adolescent determined to get his way at all costs. From protests over Di Matteo's dismissal, right or wrong, they are now an assassination on Benitez's character.
Chelsea fans are not supporting Benitez—they are supporting a club that just shy of 20 years ago hadn't won a major honor since 1971.
However, by saying the club has made a "massive mistake" in naming him as interim manager, Benitez's days are surely numbered. It's one thing to criticize supporters but to criticize Roman Abramovich so publicly?
That can only lead to one thing.
Last season, Andre Villas-Boas lost his job after a 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion. Ironically, Steve Clarke's side visits Stamford Bridge on Saturday, but given the events of Wednesday evening, it doesn't seem likely Benitez will make it that far.
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