NEW Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez brushed off concerns over interference from Blues owner Roman Abramovich last night, insisting the Stamford Bridge job will prove easier than managing Liverpool.
Benitez said Abramovich would not be involved on a day-to-day basis and that working with the Russian was preferable to his last days at Anfield under warring then-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
The Spaniard, who said he was due to meet Abramovich for the first time last night, officially took charge yesterday following the sacking of Champions League winning boss Roberto Di Matteo on Wednesday.
“The information I have from different people who know him [Abramovich] is that he likes to see his team playing good football but he’s not involved every day, saying to the manager ‘you have to do this or that’,” he said. “Here you don’t have two owners who are not talking to each other. You have one owner, a technical director, good players and staff – so I think it’s easier.”
Benitez, who has signed a short-term deal until the end of the season, accepted he may encounter Chelsea’s notorious player power.
“In a top side you normally have some important players who people think have more influence,” he said. “When I was in the second division with Tenerife, we had three or four players who were really important because they were good professionals and they understand the game. Today I had that conversation with Petr Cech, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Fernando [Torres], Oriol Romeu and I didn’t see any difference.”
The ex-Valencia coach vowed to win over sceptical Chelsea fans who still harbour enmity from his Liverpool days, when he once pledged he would “never take that job, no matter what”. “You have to analyse the context,” he said. “I don’t see it as lack of respect for Chelsea, just defending my club against another top side. At the end of the season they’ll be really pleased, I’m almost sure.”
Benitez said he had no qualms about a short-team deal, insisting he had waited for a major job since being sacked by Inter Milan, even if former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola remains Abramovich’s preferred choice to take charge next summer.
“I have a very good relationship with Guardiola, he’s a great manager,” he added. “What happens in the future you never know, but we have a massive game at the weekend and five trophies to fight for. You go to a top side like this for seven months to win trophies. For two years I have been waiting for the right opportunity, I have to try to take it.”