Rafael Benitez revealed tonight he had not met Chelsea’s owner, Roman Abramovich, before his unveiling as manager. Benitez said he had not even spoken to the man who has removed seven managers in eight years, but said it would be “easier” at Chelsea than working for two owners at Liverpool.
“I will meet [Abramovich] today,” Benitez said this evening. “The main thing is that I have spoken to Michael Emenalo, the technical director, and he is my link. I like to speak about football with him. That’s my priority. My agent was doing his job. I was focusing on other things.”
Benitez’s tenure at Liverpool was dominated by politics, particularly regarding the club’s two feuding American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett. Benitez said working for one all-powerful owner would be easier than his situation at Anfield
“It was a difficult time, but still we were performing,” Benitez remembered of his time at Liverpool. “Now you have a different situation and it will be easier. If you have two bosses who aren’t talking to each other, it’s difficult. You want a striker and one of them says: ‘I don’t know.’ This will be easier.”
“You saw how we were performing even with all these problems. Here you don’t have two owners who aren’t talking to each other. You have an owner, a technical director and good staff, so for me maybe it’s easier.”
Benitez would not comment on the news that Mark Clattenburg had been cleared following accusations of racial abuse. Prospect, the referees’ union, called for an apology, compensation and a charity donation from Chelsea. “I want to concentrate on football issues if I can,” Benitez said.
The Spaniard hopes he will forge a good working relationship with Abramovich. “Hopefully I will see the owner and talk about things,” he said. “The info I have from different people is that he likes to see his team playing good football, but he’s not involved every day, telling the manager to do this or that. He just wants to see the team playing well.”
Joining Benitez at Stamford Bridge will be former Liverpool and Chelsea midfielder Boudewijn Zenden as well as coaches Paco de Miguel and Xavi Valero. “I will not change too much because, when I spoke with Emenalo, we knew they had some good coaches with the staff here,” he said. “I will bring some people who will be easier for me. I chose Zenden because he was my player, he worked here for three years and knows the environment. You don’t want to waste time getting to know things.”
Although Benitez is only the interim manager, with a contract until the end of the season, he said his future was in his hands if he was successful. “If I do well and win trophies, I’d be really happy and then we will see,” he said. “At this moment I’m here. I got the job. This is very simple: winning games. Winning games is a guarantee for everything. If you can do it in a row, you can win trophies.”
The appointment of Benitez was unpopular with some Chelsea fans given comments made in the past. Benitez defended his comments, saying they were natural. “We were playing against Chelsea, a top side, in the semi-finals of the Champions League,” he said. “If I’m a fan, I’d like to see my manager fighting for my team, my club, and doing almost everything. So I don’t think it’s a lack of respect for the Chelsea fans. It’s more a manager defending his team. I’m sure the fans here would like to see me doing the same now that I am here, defending their club.”