Benitez Confirms Chelsea Exit at End of Season, Criticizes Club
Chelsea coach Rafael Benitez said he’ll leave the soccer team at the end of this season and that it was a mistake to give him the title of interim manager.
Benitez, who took charge after the Premier League club fired Roberto Di Matteo in November, also criticized a section of supporters that he said has “an agenda” against him.
“There is a group of fans who are not making any favors for the team,” Benitez, 52, told reporters in televised comments following last night’s 2-0 F.A. Cup win at Middlesbrough. “They are singing, wasting time preparing banners. It’s because somebody made a mistake. They put my title interim manager, and I will leave at the end of the season, so they don’t need to waste time with me.”
Benitez, who guided Liverpool to the Champions League title in 2005, was appointed on Nov. 21 as Chelsea’s ninth manager since Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought the London soccer team in 2003. U.K. newspaper reports said at the time that the short-term move may pave the way for the hiring of former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, who has since signed a three-year contract to take over at Bayern Munich.
Benitez said last night his tenure will end regardless of how the campaign finishes. Chelsea is competing for two trophies, the F.A. Cup and the Europa League, as well as a top-four finish in the Premier League.
The Blues are fourth in the standings, 19 points behind leader Manchester United, who they will meet in the F.A. Cup quarterfinals. They also face Steaua Bucharest in the last 16 of Europe’s second-tier club competition.
‘I am Professional’
Benitez, who has guided Chelsea to 14 wins in 27 games, urged supporters to focus their energies on the team for the remaining matches.
“It would be much better for everyone to have a good atmosphere and supporting the team, backing the players,” he said. “At the end of the season, I will leave anyway because I am interim like they say. I have proved in these three months that I want to win every single game. I am professional.”
The Spaniard’s outburst came after defending champion Chelsea reached the last eight of England’s top cup competition for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.
Second-half goals from Ramires, via a deflection off teammate Fernando Torres, and fellow midfielder Victor Moses secured the win at the Riverside Stadium. The Blues will face record 11-time winner United at Old Trafford on March 10 as they seek an eighth F.A. Cup title.
Before last night’s match, Benitez played down U.K. media reports of a training-ground confrontation with players following the 2-0 loss at Manchester City four days ago. He said after the win against Boro that he’s satisfied with his squad.
“I have a really good group of players who are working very hard,” Benitez said. “It is a top club, so it’s not a problem. The problem is that a group of people think that they can say what they want instead of supporting the team.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Baynes in Sydney at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at email@example.com