Rafael Benitez is confident enough about the impression he is making at Chelsea to hint that Pep Guardiola or any other manager will find him a hard act to follow.
The Spaniard has faced intense hostility from fans since he accepted the manager’s job an interim basis last month, with supporters in Japan for the Club World Cup even giving him a hard time, but the team’s form has already improved after a slow start.
Benitez now hopes the critics will be made to eat their words, providing the upward trend continues.
“After the improvement of the team,” he said. “The way I will play [and] the style I will have, I think a lot of fans will say, ‘Maybe we were too hard and we have to give him the chance to bring the confidence back to the team and the fans’.”
Benitez’s self-assurance follows Chelsea’s progress to tomorrow’s Club World Cup final against Corinthians and he is optimistic about winning the trophy. “Guardiola has a fantastic record,” he added. “Everybody is talking about Guardiola – Guardiola this, Guardiola that – but Guardiola is just one man, he can go to just one club, If he comes and we’ve won a lot of trophies, I’ll be very pleased. When I decided to come, I knew I was signing a contract for six or seven months, so I was not thinking about more.”
Whoever is in charge of Chelsea next season, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that Frank Lampard will still be in the squad,
Benitez hinted that money would be to blame if the midfielder’s contract, which expires in the summer, is not renewed. “He’s a fantastic player and a great professional,” said the former Liverpool manager.
“When I talk to the people in charge, they are telling me the same, so nobody has any doubt about his quality. The decision could be about analysing different things, not just the quality of the player.”