Serie A should thank Benitez

by Sam Wheatley

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

The Serie A is wide open. Milan are top, and Juventus have finally recovered from calcipoli, sitting in third. Napoli’s exciting young team containing Ezequiel Lavezzi, Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamsik is finally clicking and has them fourth, as well as sixth-placed Palermo’s young South American contingent of Javier Pastore and Abel Hernandez. Rome duo Lazio sit second and Roma are seventh. Inter, it may not surprise Liverpool fans to hear, are fifth.

Fifth is admittedly an improvement on the seventh-placed finish that he achieved with Liverpool last season, but it must be put into context – Inter had won the Serie A every season since 2005/06 (when it was stripped from Juventus for their part in scandal), but an inexperienced Mancini and the irrepressible Mourinho never succumbed to the pressure of winning consecutive scuddetti. Benitez has blown the competition wide open.

Recently, Wesley Sneijder spoke to a Parisian magazine, fawning after his former boss Mourinho, now at Real Madrid. Sneijder, who recently fainted at a game and was then diagnosed with anaemia, told the magazine how Mourinho would see him looking tired and to tell him to go home and rest. Sneijder said that he would go on holiday and come back “willing to kill and die for him [Mourinho]”. The fact he fainted under Benitez’s watch is no coincidence. Benitez is the same man that ploughed a knackered Fernando Torres into the ground because he needed him.  The same paper-thin squad that he himself had constructed was showing cracks – Rafa couldn’t drop Torres, so he didn’t.

Benitez’s personal relationships with the players at Inter won’t have been put under any additional scrutiny by Sneijder’s comments, precisely because it will appear merely to be another expression of gratitude for Mourinho’s work at the Nerazzurri – which nobody denies, nor do they begrudge him joining Real Madrid.

Inter president Massimo Morratti knows that to lose a man of Mourinho’s quality is a cruel blow, but would also have taken heart in that an (at the time) inexperienced Roberto Mancini was able to steward the club towards consecutive titles. A forgone conclusion, then, that a man of Benitez’s experience would be able to complete the formality once again. Unfortunately, Benitez’s obvious misgivings at Anfield seem to be repeating themselves at the San Siro. There is some light at the end of the tunnel.

Before the Twente game, Benitez was reportedly one game away from the boot. This weekend, his Inter side demolished Parma 5-2, buying him some time and space, with the Italian winter break just around the corner. Morratti has come out today, it is reported in Corriere Dello Sport, and said that Benitez will have the opportunity to strengthen the side in Janurary, and that the chairman supports his coach.

Thiago Motta, Julio Cesar and Dejan Stankovic are returning from injury, and maybe we will soon see Inter on the march again. Certainly, the squad is still high quality and highly reputable. Rafa must increase this run of two straight wins against Lazio at the weekend, or his reign may soon be over. Games against rivals can make or break a manager in Italy, and although Inter are within touching distance despite many of Rafa’s mistakes, it may not be enough for a club so used to success in recent years if they lose at the Stadio Olimpico.

Should he survive until January, the World Club Cup will not be a welcome addition to the busy Inter schedule. Morratti is supporting his man, for now. For the rest of us, the excitement of Napoli’s team, the resurgence of Milan and Juventus and this cohesive Lazio side spearheaded by former Birmgham loanee Mauro Zaraté mean some exciting times in Serie A. More exciting, perhaps, would be if Rafa gets it together and his side make a real push. The young players in Italy, and specifically at the clubs in the top six, are beginning to re-establish Serie A after recent years with problems with sponsorship, facism, television rights, bankruptcy (Fiorentina), corporate scandal (Parma) and match-fixing (calciopoli), the end of Inter’s monopoly may actually be welcome.

Perhaps Benitez’s Liverpool dynasty has helped blow this season’s Premier League open as well.  If this is the case, there should be an Anglo-Italian alliance thanking one of the world’s most inconsistent managers.

Be Sociable, Share!
  • rockstar

    what a piece of drivel. someone just wakes up out of bed and writes this garbage and calls it an article…!

  • stu

    One line undoes all the so called journalism in one fell swoop:

    “Rafa couldn’t drop Torres, so he didn’t”.

    Well, here comes the reality: Rafa did no such thing in fact he was constantly questioned even ridiculed for not playing him in some games (rested) or bringing him off early in others (after he’d scored, worked hard or because he was clearly tiring).

    I am SICK to death of you so called sports writers/journalists/web idiots out there who for some unknown reason HATE the man.
    Look, I’m no blind Rafa lover but the guy won trophies, he made big in roads into matching the bigger premiership winning sides (Utd, Chelsea&Arsenal) in the league. On top of all that the gu ypout Liverpool top of Europe (ranked 1st) for good duration of his tenure.
    He had ONE bad season where injuries & loss of form from the key players cost him dear. His squad was thin & not good enough in quality simply because he wasn’t allowed to spend big on the right players – he then had to buy a lesser player or do without – wat would you do? Prime example: to shore up his wing/creative derth he wanted to buy Simao then Silva but who was he forced to buy but Jermaine Pennant. By the way, that player whilst no doubt a waste of talent in the end was being talked about for the Eng squad during his time at Anfield. He also played in the final of the Champs League. (To be fair now Traore played in a CL final too!)

    Rant over. Now learn your lesson and go research properly before you print/upload tripe.

  • Matt

    The media criticised Benitez when he tried to protect Torres by not playing him or substituting him during a game and now they are criticising him for playing him too much! Apart from that it’s a pretty good and accurate article.

  • Sam Wheatley

    Perhaps phrased a little badly – Benitez should have rested Torres for longer. Instead Rafa succumbed to some of the media pressure and El Nino was in and out of the team, which didn’t serve anyone particularly well. The media pressure and his team’s ailing fortunes meant that his professed protection of Torres went out of the window. Mourinho sent Sneijder on holiday. Perhaps Benitez could have done the same.

    Benitez did fairly well at Liverpool, but he did fail to finish inside the top four on occasions, and not only that he spent quite a lot of money on some pretty awful players. His stock is falling with Inter.

    Besides, I merely called him inconsistent. Some of his tactical decisions are borderline (if not actual) genius, some the work of an amateur. The point is that he has taken a team off the back of the first treble in Italian history to fifth in fourteen games doesn’t bode well. It’ll be fairer to judge at the end of the season.

    Really, this was an article about Serie A. Worse is printed in Corriere Dello Sport.

  • Alan

    “thanking one of the world’s most inconsistent managers.”

    This is enough for me to say this article is a load of bollocks. Inconsistent managers in world football, coming from a manager who has a 50% plus win percentage in all competitions with his last 3 teams he has managed is trully inconsistent, if that was the case I think 99% of the managers in world football would like that percentile. Even at Inter he has won 47% of his games thus far, Mourinho’s percentage was 62% after 108 games. The man will given time because he has the credentials to show he is the man up for the job.

  • Alan

    Sam, your paragraph:

    “Benitez did fairly well at Liverpool, but he did fail to finish inside the top four on occasions, and not only that he spent quite a lot of money on some pretty awful players. His stock is falling with Inter.”

    You need to check some facts out on Benitez’s transfer record before spouting the usual media shit. His stock is falling, tell me is there any other manager in World Football capable of following Mourinho that was available to Inter last summer, the answer is no. Once Benitez gets it right at Inter, they will be the first side to win the Champions League back to back. Rafa’s track record speaks for itself.

  • jo

    Well that’s a new excuse here, If I fall sick I will blame my manager for not telling me I am sick and should go home. How wrong I was to assume that I was responsible for my own health and needed to ask for time off when I feel sick.
    Oh and Its obviously Rafa’s relationship thats the reason why he has had at least 6 first team players injured most of the time.
    It is also Rafa’s fault that stars for Mancini and Mourinho get one year older every year i.e at least 80% of the first team is 30year or older with Etoo @ 29 fast aproaching 30 while schneider is th truly recognisable star who at 26 does not need replacing. It spells trouble having a 35 year old Zanetti as captain as it shows that the team needs an overhaul. The team has come to the end of its productive life cycle and new younger players are desperately needed. This is obviously Rafa’s fault though.

  • Mystical Mike

    exactly how many trophies did he win at Liverpool? everyone knows he was living of that 3-0 comeback

  • Azeem

    Benitez did not only win trophies of champions league n FA cup at Liverpool. He instilled fear in all opposing teams. Liverpool WERE feared and difficult to play against under Rafa.

    Biased English media ARE always on his back.
    Something i don’t quite understand.

    Rafa brought plenty of memorable games to Liverpool. We trashed Inter and Real Madrid 4-0 just to name a few. oh not forgetting the trashing of Man U 4-1.
    Now a clown like Roy takes over (coz he needs plenty of make up to face Man U in FA Cup tie), suddenly everything Roy does is ok. Even if Roy plays negative football. Ferguson, Redknapp, Alladarcye- all are his friends. So it is not right for Liverpool to be feared. Liverpool must be friends to all. Yeah… right.

    The English media wants a success story for Ferguson.Yet the man is Scottish!

  • Sam Wheatley

    @jo: Benitez also has Coutinho and Santon, two of the biggest prospects in world football, coming of age. Also 30 is far from too old; it is the peak of many players’ career. Most of the squad are essentially in their prime.

  • stu

    Re: Sam W

    Rafa did rest Torres and for long enough – he WAS NOT giving/did not give in to any pressures expecially any from the media. You simply do not know anything about the man if you really believe that!
    Re: whoever questionned Rafa’s trophy haul – He won the Champs League (biggest prize in world football), the FA Cup, the cup winners cup and came in runners up in the carling cup and the champs league whilst finishing a hair’s breadth from winning the league in England only two seasons ago.
    Clearly he is rubbish. Clearly.

    Anyone jumping on the bandwagon of Rafa has caused Inter’s downfall must be a footballing idiot. Mourinho himself predicted the fall of Liverpool this season; Inter’s team IS old and Jose has a habit of leaving successful teams with a very high average age. Just look at what happened to Chelsea when he left them….until Guus then Carlo arrived.

    btw – the peak of a modern footballer is 27 not 30.


Previous post:

Next post: