Who Do Chelsea Fans Want to Replace Rafa Benitez?
Rafa Benitez's appointment at the expense of club legend Roberto Di Matteo has not been welcomed by Chelsea fans. That is a fact.
As the saga at Stamford Bridge shows no sign of ceasing soon, thoughts have turned to who the Chelsea fans would rather see wearing the crest in the dugout. Here are five suggestions as to where the board should look to replace Benitez if they want to make peace with the supporters.
Guus Hiddink led Chelsea to FA Cup success when he took over from Luiz Felipe Scolari halfway through the 2008-09 season. Much like the improvement seen when Roberto Di Matteo took charge in March 2012, Hiddink got the best from the players that he had, and it was only an abysmal refereeing performance that prevented him from taking the Blues to the Champions League final.
His appointment was a favour to Roman Abramovich, and despite chants of "we want you to stay" echoing around Wembley Stadium after the FA Cup final, he left at the end of the season to return to his duties as manager of the Russian national team.
There have been conflicting reports surrounding his potential return to Stamford Bridge, with the Daily Mail announcing his intention to retire at the end of the season, while Sky Sports recently ran a story suggesting that he could return to Stamford Bridge in the summer.
Whatever he decides to do, there is no doubt that the Chelsea fans would welcome him back with open arms.
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Jose Mourinho is Chelsea's most successful manager to date. In his first season at the club he brought the league title to Stamford Bridge for the first time in 50 years along with the league cup, since renamed the Capital One Cup. He retained the Premier League title the following year and led the team to the domestic cup double in 2006-07.
During his reign at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea set the records for the fewest goals conceded in a league campaign (15), the most wins in a league campaign (29), the most clean sheets (25) and the highest Premier League points tally (95).
His departure in September 2007 was an abrupt one, and the fans were left stunned at the sudden loss of their saviour. Mourinho's name has been sung at the Bridge consistently in the six years since he left, and should he return in the summer the reaction would be positively jubilant.
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The concept of a player-manager is a strange one in modern football. Back in the 1990s it was the done thing at Chelsea when Ruud Gullit and Gianluca Vialli each took charge of the club whilst still being active squad members.
When it was announced that the club had "parted company" with Roberto Di Matteo, many fans thought that John Terry stepping into the breach made sense. He has natural leadership qualities and his passion for Chelsea FC has inspired the team to victory on numerous occasions.
Terry is already being touted as a future manager of the club and has already begun training for his coaching badges. He would need special dispensation from the FA to take charge of the club by himself—an unlikely event given his track record with the English governing body—but if that were to happen, it would be welcomed by the fans.
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Gianfranco Zola recently came in third in a poll concerning Chelsea fans' all-time greatest players, and the diminutive Sardinian is still held in high regard at Stamford Bridge. He retired as a player in 2005 and joined the Italian under-21 setup in a coaching role.
His first full managerial role was at Chelsea's London rivals, West Ham United. He brought class and flair to a workmanlike side and gave youngsters such as Jack Collison the chance to break into the first team. During his second season in charge there were signs that he could be heading for an early exit from Upton Park, as the Hammers chairman announced that the entire squad, bar Scott Parker, was for sale with apparently no consultation with his manager.
Zola left West Ham in 2010 and returned to management in 2012—this time at Championship side Watford. At the time of writing the Hornets are second in their league, with automatic promotion to the Premier League at stake.
Chelsea academy player Nathan Chalobah is currently on loan at Watford and would no doubt love to reunite with his current manager back at Stamford Bridge. Much as Zola is loved by the fans, there would need to be assurances that he would be treated better than Di Matteo for his appointment to sit comfortably with the faithful.
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Whilst Benitez is disliked by the majority of Chelsea fans, there is a hardcore minority who would see him replaced by literally anyone. Even this kid would be preferable to "The Interim One" as far as they are concerned.