In his final press conference as Chelsea’s Interim manager Rafael Benitez dodged questions on whether he would participate in the end of season ‘lap of honour’, however this shouldn’t be an issue and Benitez should able to show off his Europa League trophy.
Having arrived to a ‘difficult’ atmosphere, it appears leaving might pose the same complications, Benitez believed he would be able to turn the Chelsea supporters, only to discover during a midweek FA Cup match that this would not be possible.
Since that vital moment, things changed for Chelsea, and the team cemented Champions League football and became only the fourth club to win every major European honour by winning the Europa League against Benfica.
That achievement is as much Benitez’s as it is any Chelsea players, John Terry was happy enough to go up and lift the trophy with Frank Lampard, and he played no part in the final, so why not let Benitez have his moment?
To suggest this would be Benitez ‘proving the fans wrong’ would be incorrect. A table showing points accumulated since Benitez took over shows Chelsea in 5th place, behind all of the top four rivals, we have scrapped into the top four under Benitez.
However, I will never lay all of the blame at Benitez’s door, the Chelsea board should have known the hatred for him from the fans and never appointed him, fans should never be blamed for showing passion, something Benitez claimed we had a lack of.
The bad atmosphere clearly had an impact on the early period of Rafa’s reign, but the players seem to enjoy playing under him, especially the Spanish and Brazilian contingents. I also believe the ‘old guard’ have grown to Rafa and wouldn’t have minded if he took over full time, but he was never a fit for this football club.
Benitez’s main counter attacking tactic in the Europa League final was to pinpoint the Benfica left back and had Ramires on that right wing to not only provide support for the defence and midfield, but also to provide an outlet.
The winning goal came from Ramires winning a corner in the last seconds on that left hand side, and by making no substitutions during the game, clearly Benitez believed his original plan was going to pay off, and it did.
Benitez should be allowed to celebrate our success and to say goodbye, not to the fans, but to the squad which he has led to the Europa League trophy and has grown fond of, and a squad that has grown fond of him.
A lap of honour, however, is where our celebration for winning the Europa League should end. We only entered the competition because of our failings in the Champions League, so winning the trophy can hardly be described as a success.
Benitez has to be given credit for even trying to win the tournament, which most Premier League managers have gladly sacrificed for a better league position.
Although Benitez took this approach for his own gain (not that I blame him, I would do the same in his situation), as he knew he wasn’t staying on at Chelsea and needed to raise his profile since his failings at Inter Milan, he still put us in a position to win another trophy, something some clubs can only dream of.
This is why, Benitez should be part of the lap of honour, he knows he is not welcomed, and he isn’t asking for fans to worship the ground he walks on. Benitez should be given the opportunity to enjoy some light relief from a long season, which has seen him win another European Trophy.
Benitez and Chelsea will go their separate ways come Sunday evening, there is no need to boo, to chant anti-Rafa songs, and we can all (hopefully) enjoy three points, another trophy and create an atmosphere that will lead the team to even more success next season.
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