In news that will bring a superior smirk to the faces of many a United fan, news has emerged that, after six months in the job, Rafael Benitez has been sacked by Inter Milan, the same Inter Milan who, after winning an incredible treble last season under the guidance of Jose Mourinho, are currently sat in 7th position in Serie A, 13 points behind the leaders, AC Milan, albeit with two games in hand. The reason for the dismissal is simple.
It’s not results, Inter have been plagued by injuries this season, have been a bit unlucky at times and are probably suffering from a World Cup and Champions League hangover. No, the problem is that Benitez thinks he’s bigger and better than he really is and that, when faced with adversity, he is more likely to attribute the cause of the failings of the team to the position of Jupiter and the will of God than being down to his own shortcomings.
I don’t think Rafael Benitez is a particularly poor manager, he’s clearly an intelligent man who has a grasp of football, has a respectable philosophy about how the game should be played and sometimes has a knack of finding the right players to fit into his system (and sometimes not.) But unlike past and present greats of the game such as Alex Ferguson, Rinus Michels, Bill Shankly and Matt Busby, Benitez lacks any of the “soft” skills that are required to succeed as a football manager, such as the ability to motivate players and create a sense of comraderie and team spirit, attributes which are vital to turn a team into one that is capable of prolonged, undoubted success.
Dani Alves recently said that, if Pep Guardiola asked him to jump off the third tier of the Camp Nou, then that is what he would do. We have heard similar things said by players from Chelsea and Inter during Jose Mourinho’s time at those clubs, and I don’t think any of us can doubt the loyalty of the United players to Sir Alex, not even Rooney’s. I doubt that even Benitez’s dog is loyal to him.
We all know that this news is all the more sweet for United fans because, for the past God knows how long, we’ve had to put up with Liverpool fans shouting from the roof tops that Rafael Benitez is a tactical “genius”, a leader of men, and the most underrated manager in world football. Well when you go to the reigning European Champions and make the ultimatum shown below (highlighting three options that the Chairman has to make), you’ve clearly got personality disorders that need addressing before deciding to take on the pressure of another big job in football.
““One, 100 per cent support for the coach and buy four or five players to build a stronger team with competition among the players to be able to carry on winning matches and trophies.
“Two, carry on like this without a project, without planning, and go ahead with one person to blame for the whole season getting to May this way.
“The third is to speak to my agent and reach an agreement if there is not this support. Simple
“I deserve respect. I’ve shouldered all the blows and all the responsibilities but in August the club promised me three players but no one arrived”
“Last year Moratti spent €80m on five players, all [Mourinho's] first choice, but this year with a new coach he’s spent nothing.
“I don’t know why. Maybe there was something projected and then it didn’t happen, or to balance the books, or for some other reason. This summer I was 100% disappointed with the transfer market. I want to know what the players are doing. These lads have done no gym work for two years and to compensate for this they go [to the gym without my knowing], and they hide injuries.”
As well as being oblivious (or not giving a damn) about the finer points of Inter’s precarious financial position, Benitez is clearly trying to shift blame from himself and inhibit some sort of “siege mentality” into the team, miserably failing at all of these in the process. And regarding those “three players” that he wanted, guess who they were? Mascherano, Kuyt and Lucas. Not only did he clearly have no problem with rading his former club (who of course he dearly loves), he also doesn’t seem to appreciate that Barcelona was clearly a more attractive proposition for Mascherano, and that Kuyt and Lucas are hardly going to turn Inter into a much stronger team.
As I said, I don’t think Benitez is a bad manager, and he isn’t entirely at fault for Inter’s current league position, but his lack of leadership skills and his downright idiotic personality are impossible to overlook. But it’s more than that, he’s overrated in other respects as well. He’s not even the tactical genius that people (mainly Liverpool fans) make him out to be, as put forward by Zonal Marking a while back [link here, recommend reading the article in full]
“Part of the problem with Benitez’s reign was his formation as a whole. Liverpool have become accustomed to playing with a 4-2-3-1 system, but it actually took Benitez three and a half seasons before this was installed as the primary formation (which was strange considering he had experienced such success at Valencia with this system). Until then, he had largely persisted with a basic 4-4-2 for league matches, which didn’t suit his two most talented players. Steven Gerrard was not disciplined enough for a central midfield role and was playing too far from goal, whilst Xavi Alonso is a deep midfielder but not a holding one – they clearly both needed a destroyer alongside them. Instead, Gerrard was sometimes shunted out to the right and Alonso struggled for form – the shift to 4-2-3-1 suited them both, but it was late in arriving. The delay probably set Liverpool back a couple of seasons.
His problem with attackers is probably best summed up best by a player he would consider a success – Dirk Kuyt. Yes, he performs a valuable role for Liverpool and is defensively excellent, but how has Benitez managed to get an exciting goalscoring forward and turn him into a defensive-minded workhorse? You can argue that Jose Mourinho has done the same with Samuel Eto’o, but then Inter have been successful and Eto’o remains a confident, excellent footballer. If you’re unsuccessful and you make players look worse than they actually are, you’re probably not doing a great job as manager.”
Because as the superb In Bed With Maradona proposed recently, has Benitez been found out? It appears so [link here, all recommend reading in full]
“Last month I wrote that the Spaniards arrival was like pouring diesel into a petrol engine as his tactical changes had handicapped a team that played almost perfectly last season. Moving the defence so high up the pitch, in a move made seemingly for no other reason than to be different to Mourinho, was proof enough that his appointment was a mistake.
Since then however things have gone from bad to worse, with losses to Tottenham, Milan, Chievo and Lazio. Perhaps more than the defeats is the manner in which they were suffered. Benitez holds a lofty reputation as a master tactician, a belief born perhaps in Istanbul when his Liverpool team came from behind to defeat Milan on penalties. Given recent events however, the reason for that turnaround seems more and more to be the result of a Milan collapse than any Rafa-inspired changes. While his lack of man-management skills and motivational skills is widely accepted, since moving to Italy his supposed gift for tactical intelligence is being exposed almost every week.”
When Saturday Comes also join in with the Benitez bashing, saying that [link here, again, recommend entirety of the article]
“Benítez, on the other hand, could not be more different. He has neither the charm nor charisma of Mourinho. In short, he is a PR disaster. Winning the Club World Cup should have vindicated Benítez (even if it was Mourinho who presented him with the opportunity in the first place). It should have gone some way to silencing his critics, in turn, buying him both time and bargaining power against those who questioned his suitability for the role. For one night at least, Benítez should have let the football and the victory do the talking. All he had to do was be humble in public.
Instead, Benítez has managed to put himself under even more pressure by giving an acceptance speech in which he managed to criticise his players, alienate the Inter fans, offend and belittle his boss, club president Massimo Moratti, before effectively offering the board an ultimatum.”
But don’t any of you worry about poor old Rafa, with this latest dismissal he’s sure to get another huge payoff. And who knows, perhaps even a reappointment down the M62. One can only hope so.