Rafael Benitez expects Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard to leave club

Benitez swiftly responded to Sir Alex Ferguson’s criticism of him

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The Independent Football

Rafael Benitez, the new interim Chelsea manager,has said he thinks club stalwarts Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole will be allowed to leave at the end of the season.

When asked if the pair were heading for the exit at Stamford Bridge, Benitez said: “I think so, that is the case at the moment. I am only here for seven months. If it is for two or three years then maybe I would have an influence.

“Sometimes you are in a difficult position as manager because there’s too much to decide on, so it’s better to have a technical director sometimes.”

Benitez had dinner with Roman Abramovich on Thursday night and added: “I spent two or three hours with the owner, we talked about everything. He knows my ideas, but we didn’t have that much time together. Maybe we will in future. If you have confidence in yourself and explain yourself, everyone can understand.

“My impression with the owner is he’s a nice person. You can talk with him and he understands. He likes to see you have a clear idea: I think it’s black and white with him.”

Benitez swiftly responded to Sir Alex Ferguson’s criticism of him yesterday by saying that Arsène Wenger was the Premier League’s best ever manager. Benitez and Ferguson have never been close and the Spaniard said yesterday, without much prompting, that he had always thought Wenger was a superior leader. 

“There are a lot of good managers in the world, many who have won trophies,” Benitez said. “I don’t like to talk too much about other managers. When I came to England I knew the other managers here. Arsène Wenger is the best manager there had been here for a while. But I cannot talk about these things every day.”

Benitez had only been Chelsea manager for a few hours when Ferguson said he was “lucky”, and he asserted his right to respond to criticism.

“I like to talk about my team, about football,” he said. “But if some people push you, if you want to win, maybe you have to push back.”

Benitez hopes that his record of success will endear him to the Chelsea supporters. “All fans, around the world, know the manager wants to win. They prefer a manager with a winning mentality rather than one who finishes seventh or eighth.”

Fernando Torres was one of the stars of Benitez’s Liverpool team but he has lost form at Chelsea. Benitez sounded relaxed about his hopes of getting the best out of him.

“You don’t need too much time talking with Fernando,” he said. “I know him, but he knows me and what we’re looking for. I have to spend more time with the others. Fernando is easy: ‘You have to do this’. ‘OK’.”

Chelsea aware of Clattenburg woe

Chelsea are looking for a way of acknowledging the difficult position Mark Clattenburg was put in by their complaint of abusive language toward John Obi Mikel.

The referee was cleared and the referees' union Prospect has demanded an apology from Chelsea as well as compensation.

The club are reluctant to undermine the initial complaint, which is still seen as legitimate, but they understand that by making the complaint, and by making it public, they did make Clattenburg's life very difficult.