Clouds gather over Rafa Benitez and Jose Mourinho
Coaches find that life at their new clubs is not a bed of roses as former Reds boss returns to Liverpool
Rafa Benitez will spend Christmas with his family in Liverpool possibly regretting his decision to leave Merseyside for Inter Milan in the summer. While the man he replaced at Inter, Jose Mourinho, could be harbouring similar concerns as cracks began to appear in his relationship with the hierarchy at Real Madrid.
Benitez is the man most under pressure. Since taking on the unenviable task of replacing Mourinho at the San Siro the Spaniard has endured almost as torrid a time as his replacement at Anfield, Roy Hodgson. And Benitez now looks set for the axe after Inter owner Massimo Moratti pointedly refused to comply with Benitez's demands for a public show of support and financial backing.
Indeed, rumours began circulating that the Spaniard had actually been sacked yesterday, and when it emerged that he had flown back to England for the holidays - he still lives in Liverpool - some of the more excitable gossips on Merseyside began speculating that he was set to return to Anfield.
In the end it transpired that Benitez had not been relieved of his duties, but his future looks far from rosy, even though Inter picked up their fifth trophy of 2010 at the weekend when they beat Congolese side TP Mazembe to win the Club World Cup final.
After that game Benitez told reporters that the club had to make signings in the summer or else he would speak with his agent about his future. Moratti responded by calling the comments "irresponsible".
Inter currently sit seventh in Serie A, 13 points behind leaders and local rivals AC Milan, and their defence of their Champions League crown has not gone according to plan after they could only finish second in their group, behind Tottenham.
Over in Madrid professional controversialist Jose Mourinho has been making noises about the way the club is run and appears to have fallen out with Real's director of football, Jorge Valdano. He refused to deny that there was a rift between them and asked: "Why can't we have a difference of opinion?"
Mourinho's grievances range from concerns over the state of the training facilities and the need for a new striker, to control of the players. He forbade Sergio Ramos from speaking to the press after he was sent off during the defeat by Barcelona last month, only to be overruled by Valdano.
And to make matters worse, when the Special One rated himself as an 11 out of 10 as a coach, Valdano declined to agree. That would have been an unforgivable slight in Mourinho's eyes, and in a battle of wills between the two men it is likely to be Valdano who has to back down. ·