Posts Tagged Rafael Benitez

During the Week: Sorry Rafa, Storm at Barça, Being CapaBale & More


Chelsea’s interim manager Rafael Benitez unexpectedly went uber-emotional on us with his outburst aimed at fans of the Blues who simply will not roll the welcome carpet out for him at Stamford Bridge, and this is months after his appointment by Roman Abramovich.

Initially via an interview with BBC Radio’s 5 Live before butressing his weary feelings at the post match conference of the club’s FA Cup win over Middlesbrough, Benitez blasted the fans for their misguided priorities and/yet inadvertently made their day by stating he would be gone at the end of the season.

The Spanish tactician did make reasonable points about the fans wasting their time and energy on banners and angst against him when they should be supporting the club as well as being appointed ‘interim manager’, a tag that implied he wouldn’t last on the job.

That said, Benitez couldn’t have been expecting to be treated at the Bridge like he was a business class passenger on a long-haul Emirates flight as his appointment by Roman Abramovic was more of putting him on an interstate economy class ride on an Eurostar coach.

Besides those comments made about Chelsea while he was in his prime at Liverpool; a period in which both sides met more often in all competitions than any other two teams in all of Europe, made him a persona non grata at the Bridge. His appointment thus only made it easier to have him suffer for those comments.

But would Benitez have succeeded as Blues boss? Having won the UEFA Cup at Valencia and the Champions League twice at Liverpool? I honestly believe he would have failed as he currently is and I’ve elaborated on why I feel so in this post.

Simply putting it, Benitez failed because of Fernando Torres, Roman Abramovic and most of all, because of his eagerness to return to activd management. And that’s putting aside the tense reception from the stands from the onset.

Ironically, a former Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas took his Tottenham Hotspur side past the Blues into third place on the league table following a 3-2 win at West Ham United on Monday night.

That win was secured by a 90th minute strike from Gareth Bale, bringing the Portuguese manager to name his left wing ace as the Premier League’s likely Player of the Year winner just as football fans argued on Bale being on the level of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Bale being in exceptional form is much different from him being exceptional and comparison’s with Messi and Ronaldo seem a tad premature for me. He does take his freekicks a bit like CR7 but that’s about it for me. Even comparing him to the Ronaldo we saw in his final season at Manchester United seems a bit out of place.

But to take nothing from Bale, he is in fearsome form much to the delight of folks at White Hart Lane and one can say he is incomparable at the moment since he is two or three notches below The Two just as he is alone at a level just above the rest.

Barcelona on its part have been brought down from its exalted exclusive zone of being incapable of playing fluid football or even being outplayed following a humbling 3-1 defeat to archrivals Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey.

That defeat saw Real qualify for the final of the Spanish Cup while also inflicting a first home loss on the Catalans in 22 matches, prompting more theories about Barcelona’s recent poor form.

One theory believes the club’s form comes just after the Fuentes doping saga, which named the club among its beneficiaries, broke. Another believes it is Tito Vilanova’s absence that is to blame. I like the idea of the former more, just for the drama inherent.

And oh what drama would break out if all the milk from the boiling Metodo 3 cow is spilled just as the club is enduring a low.

Seriously, if Gerard Pique was spied on by the club because of fears that his relationship with Shakira would lead to a dip in form, only for the club to then deny being responsible (or in the club’s words, not having “documentary evidence”) for him being followed when he realised so, that action would put a cloud over Barça’s painfully sustained public integrity.

If the club could treat Pique, who seems a model player of the Barça way, this way, potentially losing to Real twice in four days will only be a small cause of a migraine the hierarchy must deal with. Winning at Real this weekend will be a very welcome distraction for Barça but for once, the odds are not (ever) in their favour.

The coming El Clasico is one of the highlights of what will be a super weekend of football, kicking off tonight in Italy where second placed Napoli hopes to end a run of five winless matches at home to Serie A leaders Juventus.

That is followed by third placed Lazio travelling to AC Milan on Saturday (and here’s hoping Lazio gets a big win there), there is the El Clasico, then the north London derby between Tottenham and Arsenal on Sunday at White Hart Lane.

All that after a week that saw Angel di Maria and Ronaldo wreck havoc on Barça before di Maria got himself sent off in bizarre manner, followed by Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring twice to get Paris Saint Germain a second win over Olympique Marseille in three days.

There was also Bayern Munich’s lone goal win over Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal, a scoreline that lies about Dortmund matching Bayern in the contest… Bayern displayed its superiority and it really is a mystery how they didn’t win by more goals.

Finally, a story that really amused me and no, not John Pantsil being found unconscious on Tuesday morning after reportedly attempting suicide, a report that has been bluntly denied. Pantsil needs to get his business together though.

The story that amused me came from Switzerland where former AC Milan gladiator Gennaro Gattuso has been appointed player-manager at Swiss club Sion after former manager Victor Munoz was not fired but demoted to the position of club scout after a heavy defeat by FC Thun. That is just all sorts of awkward.

With that, it’s a wrap here. I’ll watch the north London derby with bottles of Lucozade by me. Arsenal tends to do that to one and being in recovery, watching the derby… I’ll need the boost, something to Bale me out, if it all goes wrong for Arsenal on the day.

Have a great weekend then, and a great month of March too.

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

Benitez Has But Himself to Blame


Chelsea’s interim manager Rafael Benitez unexpectedly went uber-emotional on us with his outburst aimed at fans of the Blues who simply will not roll the welcome carpet out for him at Stamford Bridge, and this is months after his appointment by Roman Abramovich.

Initially via an interview with BBC Radio’s 5 Live before butressing his weary feelings at the post match conference of the club’s FA Cup win over Middlesbrough, Benitez blasted the fans for their misguided priorities and/yet inadvertently made their day by stating he would be gone at the end of the season.

I was going to compare his outburst with that of Arsène Wenger’s recently but both men’s blown cool are fundamentally very peculiar to each other. For one, Wenger’s was a lot more amusing. On another, Benitez hasn’t gone eight seasons without a trophy.

And while a majority of both club’s fans have certain levels of hatred/negative disposition towards both managers and would just love to see them leave, at Arsenal these fans just want a trophy and for the manager to spend big money in the transfer market. For Benitez, he simply isn’t welcome at the Bridge.

Back wholly to the Spanish tactician, he did make reasonable points about the fans wasting their time and energy on banners and angst against him when they should be supporting the club, as well as on being appointed ‘interim manager’, a tag that implied he wouldn’t last on the job.

That said, Benitez couldn’t have expected to be treated at the Bridge like he was a business class passenger on a long-haul Emirates flight as his appointment by Roman Abramovich was more of putting him on an interstate economy class ride on an Eurostar coach.

Besides those comments made about Chelsea while he was in his prime at Liverpool; a period in which both sides met more often in all competitions than any other two teams in all of Europe, made him a persona non grata at the Bridge. His appointment thus only made it easier to have him suffer for those comments.

But would Benitez have succeeded as Blues boss? Having won the UEFA Cup at Valencia and the Champions League *once at Liverpool? Casting all grievances aside, I honestly believe he would have failed as he currently is and here is why I feel so.

There is the Fernando Syndrome/Torres Factor ongoing at the Bridge. Only very few managers would come to Chelsea and not even consider giving Torres an umpteenth second chance. Others would simply not want to believe £50m can go to waste just like that. Well, there’s always a first time.

Second is the Roman factor. Benitez in my opinion cannot thrive under such kind of authority, as evident in his spell at Inter Milan where Massimo Moratti reigns. At Valencia and Liverpool, the hierarchy were far less… authoritative.

At Liverpool, the hierarchy has allowed managers bring in certain players including Jordan Henderson for an obscene amount and even Joe Allen. It’s under this sort of loose reign Benitez thrives on, not somewhere his request to get a player will be sanctioned or worse still for him, where there’s isn’t time and space to bring in more players owing to the lot already available.

Ideally Benitez would have a certain set of calibre of players, usually Spanish, that he would bring to the club in order to see his methods come alive. At Inter where he failed, and the Serie A generally, Spanish players aren’t exactly in demand there as it is mostly natives along with South Americans, a few Africans and a variety of others that thrive there… any variety but the Spanish one.

Without making Barcelona’s defeat at AC Milan an example, a product of the Spanish giants makes for a perfect example and Bojan Krkic is whom I write of. Going to Italy was always going to be the wrong move and though he has spurts of brilliance, he generally has declined as a footballer over the seasons.

Third, going to a club that looks set to begin searching for a 10th manager in as many years when the season’s over, was a poor choice for a manager of Benitez’s calibre and I can only blame his eagerness to return to active management for this poor choice by him.

Benitez pretty much threw himself at Liverpool, like a desperate woman complete with her red bra showing and bit too much make-up, only for Brendan Rodgers to be appointed. In the end, the lure of a good looking first team squad of players (especially the midfield) may likely have deceived Benitez into a hasty decision.

He probably should have waited for a suitable job vacancy from a modest club in La Liga or the Premier League; Swansea would have been a good project for him, or from the Bundesliga (Wolfsburg for instance) to show up. There, his rustiness in management may likely have been forgiven for a season just as he would be allowed to bring in his calibre of players.

But being a multiple-time European cup winner, Benitez most likely didn’t and still doesn’t see himself going a step or two down to manage a modest club and increase their stature with a finish in a European spot on the league table along with a good cup run.

And I really feel he should have gone this route having performed miserably at Inter, where he inherited a solid title winning team yet decided to allow his predecessor Jose Mourinho play games with his mind and make him focus on a trivial war of words rather than sustaining the team he met there.

In truth, Benitez may feel unfairly treated at the moment and maybe, just maybe some of us feel or want to feel sorry for his plight but the fact is, Benitez should never have taken the Chelsea job and since he did, he only had the heat coming for him.

, , , , ,

2 Comments

UEFA Champions League Day 1 Preview – Groups A to D


You may have had some feeling at the back of your mind that the football season, perhaps wasn’t fully on the way and from Tuesday night, that piece of ‘sporting anomaly’ will be fixed when the UEFA Champions League – Europe’s elite, and the world’s most glamorous club competition – begins on September 14 and there are a few match-ups should whet the appetite and set us on our way for this season.

Just to recap, FC Internazionale of Italy is the defending champion following a 2-0 win over German champions Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu; home of Spanish giants Real Madrid that have won the competition a record nine times…though their last triumph came in 2002 and more un-graciously have been unable go past the first knock-out round the previous six seasons. Right out of the hat, the favourites are, of course, the defending champions FC Internazionale along with 2009 champions CF Barcelona, English champions Chelsea and three time winners Manchester United while outsiders include AC Milan, Real Madrid – despite their knack for Second Round exits, you always have to hope – and err, Arsenal.

Group A
Inter Milan have an efficient team of players to count on and are as a result favourites to make it out of this group on top and besides, Rafael Benitez isn’t a stranger to European success with experience from Valencia and most memorably at Liverpool. The Nerazurri have a tough trip to FC Twente that, despite the exit of Steve McLaren to manage Wolfsburg, remain a modest enough team to cause Inter some trouble on Tuesday night. Group A’s other match looks more attracting with Werder Bremen at home to debutantes Tottenham Hotspur and both sides are attack minded teams so a few goals should probably be expected even though both sides will be missing a few players – Claudio Pizzaro and Jermain Defoe especially – and they have not been in good form on the field with Bremen on four points from four matches and Tottenham, unbeaten in four matches but have been disappointing in their last two league outings against clubs they should be winning. Looks like Bremen will edge it unless Spurs get their act together.

Group B
Olympique Lyonnais could have had it worse but in my opinion, the French side have a group it can cope with without much fuss and the visit of Schalke to the Gerlande should present a good platform to launch their quest in this season’s competition. Schalke have been dismal in the Bundesliga this season despite the arrival of Spanish veteran Raul and Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and that poor form may well spill into their European adventure for now. The other group match sees Benfica host Hapoel Tel Aviv, a match the Portuguese side to win. Lyon and Benfica as a result stand as favourites to qualify from this group while Hapoel may well nick the Europa League slot by finishing third in the group unless the Schalke side gel very soon.

Group C
This is a competitive looking group that on paper readily sees Manchester United and Valencia favourites to make the next round but I like the mould of Turkey’s representative this season. Champions League debutantes Bursaspor have begun the season in blistering note, winning all four league games so far including away at Galatasaray and should prove tough hosts to Spanish side Valencia on Tuesday. The group’s star match on the day would be at Old Trafford where Scottish champions Rangers face a Manchester United side that has thrown sure win positions away in their last two league matches; still baffled at how the Red Devils allowed Everton two goals in stoppage time in that enthralling draw at Goodison Park. Wayne Rooney will definitely be in the starting line-up on Tuesday and United should have the win even though the Scots will go about showing they aren’t one to be bullied around.

Group D
If I were Panathinaikos, I’d be cursing Hercules (not the Greek superhero) for that shock result on Saturday night because it will certainly push Pep Guardiola’s men to set the record straight at the expense of the visiting Greeks. The other game in Group D has Russian side Rubin Kazan on a tricky trip to Danish league leaders FC Copenhagen. This tie looks even to me, both sides are modest enough though if there’s to be a win on the night, I’d place my bet on Copenhagen…the trip from the old Soviet to Scandinavia isn’t a stroll you know.

All matches begin 19:45 BST (British Standard Time) so you might want to check for time zone differences. This season’s final will take place at England’s Wembley Stadium in May 2011 while the group stages run from September 14 & 15 to December 7 & 8. Have fun being a part of the Champions League!

0
You can contact me at:

Yahoo ~> deleke.afolayan@yahoo.co.uk

or

Twitter ~> twitter.com/d_oA or @d_oA

or by simply leaving a comment here. Cheers!

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments

2009/10 Premier League Prevew Part 2


Due to that faltering ambition in the league, Liverpool could soon be in danger of becoming the other club of the Merseyside, a place held by an ever improving Everton that has the third longest serving manager in the Premier League, David Moyes.

The Toffees did very well last season, capping it with two wins in all competitions over Liverpool as it wrestled 5th spot from Aston Villa before losing gallantly to Chelsea at the final of the FA Cup.

And with Jo extending his loan deal for the whole of this season from Manchester City; wise choice, coupled with Louis Saha on the field more than under the knife, Tim Cahill being the thorn he always is from midfield alongside Marouane Fellaini and the return of James Vaughn and fan favourites Mikel Arteta and Yakubu Aiyegbeni from injuries, getting the goals won’t be a problem for Everton.

Keeping the back tight however could be, that is if the club succeeds in keeping Joleon Lescott from the lure of City’s approach all through the summer. Last time, City improved its bid for the fine defender from £18m to £22m.

And if Lescott were to leave, Moyes could find someone else to fill the void left with the money ala Philippe Senderos from Arsenal or from the reserves but either way, you get the feeling the club would come through whatever the outcome.

That cannot be said of Aston Villa which is struggling to keep Ashley Young from lurking suitors while former captain Gareth Barry moved on, but to Man. City and not a club playing in the Champions League as he had advertised all through last season.

Add that to a thin squad of players and 6th place might just be quite a shot to aim at for Martin O’Neill, the burn-out of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Young last season was evident in the destrucitve dip in form plus, John Carew and Emile Heskey; good as they are, do not have age on their side.

That allows a club such as Fulham to take the place of the Villans. Just as Redknapp at Spurs, Roy Hudgson as been able to manage the Cottagers well enough. Same can also be said of Steve Bruce at a new look Sunderland which has seen the arrival of striker Darren Bent, Lorik Cana from Marseille and Frazier Campbell from Manchester United to add to the likes of Kenwyne Jones and Kieran Richardson, hopefully the new era would bring better luck over the season for the Black Cats.

The exit of Emile Heskey mid last season to Villa plus Valencia to Man. United and manager Steve Bruce to Sunderland, Wigan Athletic has itself an uphill task of matching its 11th place finishing of last season.

Over at Upton Park however, Gianfranco Zola can work his relatively young West Ham United side higher up the Premier League cadre owing to a good first season in Premier League management though managing a young squad burdened with a league, Cup and Europa League programme could be the undoing of the London club.

It would be interesting to see how Portsmouth fares this season, especially if it is finaly bought by…you guessed it, a stinking rich Middle Eastern. But all the money comes to nothing when it is not matched with performances on the field of play and manager Paul Hart has a wealth of experienced players at his disposal but a bit more speed and youth would do a lot of good for the south coast club, the loss of Glen Johnson to Liverpool though…not a good sign for an already tired defence.

At Ewood Park, Sam Allardyce looked like he was still getting used to the change of environment from neighbours Bolton Wanderers evident in Rovers’ indifferent form over last season. The exit of Roque Santa Cruz to Man. City can be well managed knowing the sort of manager Allardyce is and he would be hoping his Croatian recruit along with Franco di Santo on loan from Chelsea till January help with issues upfront.

Bolton meanwhile found the ride even harder than Rovers and manager Gary Megson probably is not looking forward to the upcoming season with few key players lost last season and main striker Johan Elmander still getting accustomed to the Premier League after a very disappointing first season on arrival from Toulouse.

Even more disappointing however was Hull City. Then newly promoted, the Tigers were contenders for the Premier League title a quarter games into the season but a severe dip in form saw a reverse in aspirations and it had become a dg fight against relegation which the KC Stadium outfit achieved on the final day last season; a far less reliance on part time preacher Geovanni would go a long way in retaining the club’s Premier League status at the end of this season.

Finally, Wolverhampton Wanderers leads the newly promoted clubs into the Premier League, the others being Birmingham City and Burnley. And really, much cannot be said of newly promoted clubs…Hull were title contenders at the start of last season, by the end they were desperately fighting off relegation.

A word though on Burnley, it took Tottenham extra time to knock the club out at the semi-final of the League Cup last season after three Premier League clubs, including Arsenal and Fulham, had failed to do same in earlier rounds.

The season begins on the weekend of August 15 with Arsenal’s visit to Everton the star match of the opening weekend alongside the reverse north London-Merseyside clash between Tottenham and Liverpool at White Hart Lane. Champions Man. United begin at home to Birmingham while Chelsea also start at home to Hull and Mark Hughes takes his star studded Man. City to old club and Lancashire neighbours Blackburn Rovers.

Opening weekend – Saturday, 15 August
Aston Villa v Wigan
Blackburn v Manchester City
Bolton v Sunderland
Chelsea v Hull
Everton v Arsenal
Manchester Utd v Birmingham
Portsmouth v Fulham
Stoke v Burnley
Tottenham v Liverpool
Wolves v West Ham

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Some of the Most Unfortunate Football Strikers


This is a compilation of some of football’s best strikers who for one reason or another have seen their careers…or better yet, sight on goal become blind partially or totally. In plain English, I mean they have become a shadow of their former deadly selves or have been forced to retirement.

First on the list is Marco van Basten and believe me, there are a precious few who match the Dutchman’s strike rate, let alone beat it.

Marco van Basten in his hey days
Marco van Basten in his hey days

218 league goals in 280 appearances for AFC Ajax and AC Milan speaks volumes in the Hall of Football Fame which also has numerous Dutch league and Cup titles along with Lega Calcio shields and ultimately the Champions League with Milan.

It then IS very unfortunate he did not get to inflict more damage on opposing defenses when at the ripe age of 28, his career came to an end no thanks to an ankle injury.
basten

His coaching stint also has not been so successful, but not so bad, after leading a promising Oranje team to the Euro 2008 quarterfinal before finishing third behind surprise packages AZ Alkamaar and FC Twente in this season’s Dutch Eredivise…he resigned his post from Ajax afterwards.

Next is Dario Silva of Uruguay who among other clubs played for Malaga, FC Sevilla and Portsmouth before the worst happened.

Dario Silva in training with Alvaro Recoba
Dario Silva in training with Alvaro Recoba

In September of 2006, the striker along with two ex-footballers was involved in an accident when Silva lost control of his pick-up truck.

Sliva survived, but at the cost of his right leg which was amputated from knee down after he was thrown out of the truck, thus fracturing his skull and leg.

Martin Palermo however did not suffer like Silva did but his ego took a bit of mud when in the 1999 edition of the Copa Libertodores, he missed three penalties for Argentina against Colombia, a feat that earned him an unenviable place in none other than the Guiness Book of Records.

Palermo also never came to terms with his scoring boot in Europe as stints with Alaves and Villarreal show but his average with Boca Juniors is phenomenal with over 200 goals in under 250 appearances in two spells at the club.

He unfortunately has played seven times only for Argentina and scored three goals and while it may seem his world record feat ended his national team career, a spate of injuries at the time was the actual cause and with players such as Messi and Tevez and Aguero (who has a child-to-be with Maradona’s daughter, Maradona being Argentina boss now), it is hard for Palermo to break back into the national team.

So what other forward of high profile could have suffered career disappointment and there came Miguel Mista of Spain and more specifically, Valencia CF.

Full name Miguel Angel Ferrer Martinez, Mista was Rafael Benitez number one forward during their time at the Santiago Bernabeu with Real Madrid’s reserves.

Both then moved on to Tenerife where Mista’s goals helped the modest club to promotion into the Primera Liga in 2001 before both again moved onto bigger turfs with Valencia where two league titles and a UEFA Cup trophy was won.

Miguel Mista in the good days of los Che
Miguel Mista in the good days of los Che

Mista finished top scorer in the la Liga; earning the Pichichi title, in 2004 with los Che before finally parting ways with Benitez who left for Liverpool while he went ot Atletico Madrid.

Bad move that was as the man he replaced, Fernando Torres, flourished at Liverpool with Rafa while Mista failed to make any impact AT ALL with Atletico, crashing into obscurity faster than the moles dig into the earth.

Next in the list of unfortunates is former Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink who unknown to many, began his career quite poorly before a move to Boavista proved his break in front of goal, scoring 20 goals in 29 league matches for the Portuguese club.

That earned him just the Portuguese Cup though and a move to England with Leeds United for whom he continued his prolific scoring form and after two seasons; coinciding with Leeds downturn, he moved to Atletico Madrid.

At Atletico, he amazingly scored 24 league goals and 10 more in other competitions, yet was unable to save the club from the ignomity of relegation that season, prompting a move to Chelsea.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

At Chelsea, he finished top scorer in three of the four seasons spent at Stamford Bridge but failed to land the league title with the Blues.

Hasselbaink NEVER won a major title at his sojourn round Europe; except the Portuguese Cup and Super Cup with Boavista and Community Shield with Chelsea, also failing to make any impact with the national team with the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooij, Dennis Bergkamp, Roy Makaay and Patrick Kluivert well ahead in the pecking order.

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: