Rafa Benitez 300
ARE Chelsea supporters two-faced, cowardly, or just actually rather clever?
It’s a question worth asking given the manner in which Rafael Benitez was greeted by the Stamford Bridge hordes on Sunday.
While even the Spaniard would have expected a less than friendly welcome, few could have envisaged the sheer vitriol directed towards the former Liverpool manager.
Of course, the very statement ‘former Liverpool manager’ is enough to send many modern Chelsea supporters into a lather.
And that Benitez is now in the home dugout on Fulham Road – well, at least until the end of the season – has prompted many fans to go into meltdown.
They are quite rightly outraged at the shocking decision to dispense with Roberto di Matteo’s services despite him achieving the Holy Grail of Champions League success last season having delivered an hors d'oeuvre of an FA Cup final triumph against Liverpool.
Di Matteo deserved better. But he, too, was initially only a stand-in manager for the sacked Andre-Villas Boas until his achievements meant his claims to be installed permanently were irresistible.
Of course, there’s a board at Chelsea. There’s even a chairman (his name is Bruce Buck, by the way).
But everybody knows the only man pulling the strings is Roman Abramovich.
And why not?
If it wasn’t for him, Chelsea may well still be in the hands of Ken Bates.
If it wasn’t for him, Chelsea wouldn’t have been able to attract the multitude of stars that have graced Stamford Bridge during the past decade.
If it wasn’t for him, Chelsea would still have not won the league since 1955.
If it wasn’t for him, there wouldn’t be this whole outrage at Chelsea jettisoning the man who finally won them the Champions League in the first place.
This is why the real villain of the piece here isn’t Benitez.
It isn’t even the Stamford Bridge hierarchy.
Chelsea supporters should be directing their ire at one man – Abramovich.
There is, however, one major issue in doing so.
If Chelsea ever turn against Abramovich in the way they already have against Benitez, the Russian oligarch will most likely decide he doesn’t need such hassle.
After all, with his Champions League dream now realised, what other reason is there for him to stick around?
And when Abramovich goes, so too does the financial base on which the empire has been built.
Then the whole thing falls apart in very swift fashion.
Benitez, while no doubt handsomely paid and having been keen to get back into top-level management, deserves better than to be publicly ridiculed.
If Chelsea supporters truly are that disgusted at the Spaniard’s appointment they should direct their anger directly at Abramovich. Just don’t hold your breath waiting for that.