Benitez flirts with Real Madrid as Mourinho job-swap beckons
Interim Chelsea manager says Spanish giant is his 'sweetheart' club
JUST when things were starting to look up for Rafa Benitez at Chelsea the unpopular Blues boss has blotted his copybook once again by making a fairly blatant play for Jose Mourinho's job at Real Madrid.
The Special One is almost certain to quit the Bernabeu at the end of the season, and has been tipped to return to Chelsea. And now Benitez has raised the possibility of a job-swap by describing the Spanish giant as his "sweetheart" club.
Benitez was parachuted into Stamford Bridge earlier this season after Roberto Di Matteo was sacked by owner Roman Abramovich. His appointment was regarded as "interim" but after Chelsea's primary managerial target, Pep Guardiola, agreed to take over at Bayern Munich there was speculation that Benitez would get the job full time, despite the fans' animosity towards him.
He has faced sustained abuse from the Chelsea faithful, largely because of the bitter rivalry between the Blues and his former club Liverpool. However, he has guided Chelsea into the FA Cup quarter-finals and they are challenging Manchester City for second place in the Premier League. They are also in with a chance of winning the Europa League.
But now Benitez, who began his coaching career at Real Madrid, has announced: "As a manager you always have your sweetheart. I have a link with the fans and they have treated me well."
He then had the gall to add that he did not want to "get involved in speculation" about his future, before giving the gossips yet more ammunition by declaring that he could not rule out becoming the next Spanish national manager.
The Daily Mail pointed out that Benitez made no mention of continuing at Chelsea after the end of the season. The paper's Neal Ashton suggests that if and when Mourinho quits Spain, he may not return to Chelsea. Instead, Ashton suggests that as a "trophy hunter" the Portuguese manager would be the ideal replacement for Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and just the man to end the club's eight-year trophy drought.