Is There Any Scenario in Which Rafa Benitez Could Stay at Chelsea?
Rafa Benitez is not a popular man in West London—that remains obvious.
There is, however, a feeling that the longer the Spaniard's reign has lasted, the less opposition he has received from the supporters.
After all, the Blues are well placed, sitting in third position the Premier League, and are on course for a Champions League qualification spot, ahead of their London rivals, Arsenal and Tottenham, with three games to go.
They also have an opportunity to secure some silverware, with one foot in the Europa League Final after their 2-1 victory over Basel in Switzerland, and this will surely give them the advantage for the second leg at Stamford Bridge.
But, despite the fact that he can still secure a trophy for his CV, does this mean that Blues fans are finally adapting to the former Liverpool manager's presence at Stamford Bridge? Has all been forgiven?
Let's not forget that when the 52-year-old was appointed, the Blues were just four points off the pace at the leaders Manchester United in the Premier League. They are now 20 adrift as the Red Devils comfortably secured their 20th title.
They were knocked out of the Champions League despite a 6-1 victory over Nordsjaelland, although this campaign was mainly led by Di Matteo, and were beaten in both the League Cup and FA Cup semi-finals by Swansea and Manchester City, respectively. And let's not get started on that FIFA World Club Cup Final loss to Corinthians.
What this highlights is that Chelsea had the opportunity to win eight trophies this season and are only in contention to win one. It's painful to take, especially when you consider last season's cup double and a transfer outlay of around £65 million last summer.
On the other hand, perhaps it may be slightly harsh to pin everything on the bearded tactician. After all, it was the board's decision to sack the extremely popular manager Roberto Di Matteo.
And it was the board's choice to select Benitez as their new manager; if you have been out of work for two years, are you really going to let past events prevent you from taking up a six-month deal worth £2 million?
Putting it into perspective, the criticism and abuse has been unnecessary. Protests and chants toward the Chelsea hierarchy would have been more appropriate, but the focus on making Benitez feel uncomfortable in his position has undeniably led to the downfall of the team's season.
Yet, what must be to his surprise, the fans have laid off Benitez and joined together as a collective to see the club win some silverware and secure their future for next season.
It seems like for the first time since taking over the reins in November, Benitez has at least some support from the fans.
To his credit, he has shown on several occasions just why he has twice been named UEFA Manager of the Year. Chelsea have had a grueling fixture list to plough through, with nine games in the last 21 days underlining the hectic schedule the club have had to deal with. In which case, Benitez's favored approach of rotating the squad has worked well, entrusting players to come into the side and perform suitably well.
Opting to use younger players like Nathan Ake to give jaded players such as David Luiz a well-earned rest is a sensible way to treat the squad while rotating strikers Fernando Torres and Demba Ba to ensure they stay fresh.
Even the more experienced heads in the side, most notably John Terry and Frank Lampard, have accepted their role in the rotation method. And it has paid dividends; Lampard came off the bench to set up the opener and scored a penalty in Chelsea's 2-0 win over Swansea.
Meanwhile, Terry has shown some of the best form this season after being given a bit-part role, and while it hasn't been something he is used to as Chelsea captain, the 32-year-old accepts it's a team matter and strictly not personal.
For keeping the squad content and the club still fighting for silverware, the ex-Valencia coach must take the plaudits. He has steadied the ship when it looked to be sinking, albeit it may have been his doing, but he has stamped his mark on this Chelsea team.
Do you think Rafa Benitez deserves to stay at Chelsea?
And while his spell as Chelsea's infamously named "interim manager" is set to end once the end of season arrives, a Europa League Final victory and top-four finish would ensure Benitez isn't forgotten too quickly on Fulham Road.
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