Rafa’s for five-year plans, not firefighting

Trevor Steven
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IN MOST football management jobs, if you have five or six weeks of poor results, you’re in trouble. If you’re at Chelsea and in freefall, as Roberto Di Matteo was, you know what comes next.

The club are all about getting results, here and now. They are also one of the most ambitious in the world – that’s why they continuously attract the best players and managers on the planet.

Last season could scarcely have ended better, with an FA Cup and a first Champions League title, although I don’t think anyone would argue that they enjoyed great fortune along the way.

But when you win the European Cup it’s critical that you capitalise on that position, especially if you aim as high as Chelsea. Going out of the competition at the first hurdle isn’t capitalising.

Whoever sanctioned Didier Drogba’s departure has a lot to answer for. If it was Di Matteo, he deserves to go; if it was the money men, they left the Italian in a very difficult position.

Harsh though it may seem, his treatment goes with the territory and his sacking was inevitable in many ways. Di Matteo never looked like a long-term appointment; now his successor might be a stop-gap too.

Why Blues owner Roman Abramovich appears to think Rafael Benitez is the man for that role is beyond me, though. The ex-Liverpool boss is the type for a five-year plan, he’s not a firefighter.

I can see why the Spaniard might be interested. He’s dangerously close to having been out of the game for too long, and a spell at a top club, even if short-lived, puts him back in the shop window.

But if Abramovich thinks reuniting Benitez with his old Anfield pupil Fernando Torres can coax the £50m striker back to top form I think he is in for a nasty surprise. The malaise afflicting Torres looks incurable.

All-conquering former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola is wanted in the long-term, he appears to be interested, and Chelsea are one of the few clubs ambitious enough to lure him.

I can’t see him coming mid-season and going straight into regular matches days later, however. He will take until the end of he campaign to weigh up his options, because he can have almost any job he likes.

Abramovich can write Pep a blank cheque, but Manchester City and United look better fits, with the players they have. And if he snubs them, Chelsea could be stuck with Benitez.

Trevor Steven is a former England footballer who now works as a media commentator and scout.