The end is nigh for Rafael Benitez. After six months in Italy, landing a reasonably plum job working for the European champions, Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti has decided to pull the trigger and leave Benitez for dead following poor results and his ultimatum against the board, following the victory over TP Mazembe in the final of the Club World Cup.
The task for Benitez was simple. To ensure Inter remain champions and do well in retaining the Champions League, a competition which Benitez seems to thrive in and has built his reputation on, certainly at Liverpool. While injuries mounted, due to fatigue and age, and the lack of money to purchase and freshen the squad, Inter were left with a threadbare group of players which would leave most managers flummoxed.
While José Mourinho revels in his long time foe’s failure in keeping his job, Benitez will wonder what lies in store for him next.
Returning to his home in The Wirral, on the outskirts of plush Merseyside, the Spaniard, according to many wants to return to a league which he is familiar and has unfinished business with. Whilst the top jobs in Madrid and Catalunya are taken, the Premier League in England seems to be the ideal place for the man many in the press have derided and mocked for his ‘facts’ and ‘rants’.
Is Benitez a glutton for punishment or just incredibly strong willed and determined?
It perhaps explains why he did what he did in the press conference after the final, calling out the board and the president included to help back him and respect the job he wants to achieve at the club. Known for politicking with the his superiors, Benitez is a born winner and does what he can to achieve his goals on the pitch. If it means demanding the resources needed at the risk of causing fractious relationships with some people in the boardroom, so be it. Though its hardly new to see managers demand to have the best support off the pitch. The most successful managers around – Ferguson, Wenger, Mourinho – have a support structure around them which gives them comfort and eases their daily routine.
Benitez asked for more money for players, which the club were more than capable of providing when Mourinho wanted to revolutionise the squad, in order to win the Champions League. Inter splurged on many seasoned internationals however with Fair Play Regulations coming into play within a few years and the lack of hunger from the club to improve their chances on building from this new found European glory, the club failed to back the manager, which has resulted in this somewhat acrimonious break up.
The vacuum left by Benitez leaves Moratti with a problem as to who should coach the team. Many of the Italian papers have former AC Milan manager Leonardo as favourite though he has mentioned many times his reluctance in stepping back into management in Italy. Other names like Zenit St Petersburg and former Roma manager Luciano Spalletti and England manager Fabio Capello have been mooted as potential candidates, though both have been dismissed swiftly as mere conjecture .
With the Inter team set to restart the league campaign in January, a decision has to made quickly for the club to stay on track and progress.
Benitez, however, now gets the opportunity which he failed to seize upon once he left Liverpool. Though the Inter job was tempting, it may have been too soon from a man who looked exhausted from his trials and tribulations at Anfield. His availability will ask questions of the futures of both Roy Hodgson and Roberto Mancini, who are continually under pressure and interrogated from the press. With proper financial backing, like Benitez would get at both clubs, he may finally get a proper crack at the league which he so desperately wants to achieve success in.