Is Rafa Benitez working on borrowed time?

by Ben McAleer

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Six months ago, Inter Milan were one of the most feared teams in Europe. With Jose Mourinho at the helm, the Milan outfit swept aside all those before them picking up the Scudetto, the Coppa Italia and the Champions League to celebrate an unprecedented treble and, in the process, becoming the first Italian side in history to do so. Yet, the success would be short lived as, despite the immense success achieved at Inter Milan, Mourinho chose to leave the Milan club for the Galactico studded Real Madrid. Owner Massimo Moratti was then stuck with a challenge of monumental proportions – who to get in to replace Jose Mourinho?

Moratti’s answer came in the form of former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez. Fresh from his departure on Merseyside, Benitez made his swift arrival back to the world of football. Yet, with the efforts of Jose Mourinho to replicate, the Inter Milan job was never going to be an easy one and this has proven to be the case. The defending Scudetto champions are currently languishing in fifth place, level on points with Sampdoria, Palermo and Roma and are sitting ten points behind first place currently occupied by heated rivals AC Milan. Coupled with a second placed finish in Group A of the Champions League (finish behind debutants Tottenham) Moratti has given Benitez and his players a simple ultimatum – win the FIFA World Club Cup and with the teams entered into the competition, I am not surprised Moratti expects success in this year’s competition.

Yet, will the trophy itself be enough to save Benitez’s job? To be honest with you, I don’t think so. Granted, it will bring success to a club which has become used to winning trophies since Calciopoli of 2006 but how long will the FIFA World Club Cup live in the memory of the Inter Milan fans? In dire need of points and with Inter Milan not playing a league game until the New Year, Inter can, potentially, drop into the bottom half of Serie A ahead of their New Year fixture against Napoli. The games in hand will be a boost that could see Inter push back up the table but it may be a little too late come January.

So, in my opinion I firmly believe Benitez’s job is well under threat. The ten point gap between themselves and top spot is looking more of a gulf with a re-invigorated AC Milan and Lazio currently leading the Serie A pack in first and second spot respectively. Failure to pick up the FIFA Club World Cup will most definitely spell the end of Benitez’s reign as Inter Milan manager but with the quality of the players in the Inter ranks, it won’t be long before a World Class manager is instilled at the helm again. In my opinion, Moratti should look to tie down Guus Hiddink on an 18 month deal to help steady his rocking ship and lead the team to glory again next season. Until then, Benitez has one last chance to save his job in the United Arab Emirates and extend his stay at the San Siro beyond the New Year.

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