Rafael Benitez’s fixation with Jose Mourinho has ultimately cost him his Inter job
Rafael Benitez’s tenure at Inter Milan is over after just six months in charge. The eccentric Spaniard raised a few eyebrows with his audacious quotes and evident obsession to do the complete opposite of his predecessor Jose Mourinho which ultimately has cost him his job. As the saying goes, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.
Jose Mourinho’s unprecedented success at the San Siro last season where he steered the Nerazzurri to a magnificent treble – also ending their 45 year wait for a European Cup – was always going to be an impossible feat for any successor to replicate. Filling Mourinho’s shoes may have seemed a daunting task but the Portuguese tactician left the team in such a fantastic state that any manger walking in had the pleasure to take over a squad that was all the more capable to achieve further success.
Benitez had left Merseyside in June and a few days later finds himself dining with Massimo Moratti wanting him to take over the reins of the European Champions. Benitez must have thought all his Christmas’s had come at once. A club steeped in tradition and prestige that had just come off their most domineering season in their history wanted him to take them on. Benitez however couldn’t have cared less about the achievements of his predecessor Jose Mourinho who on a number of occasions has made it publically clear that he is a man he isn’t entirely fond of. In a way his methods and quotes were turning the Inter fans against himself rather quickly as he never let up on his continuous displeasure of Mourinho.
It’s all well and good for a manger wanting to implement their own philosophies and methodologies into a team but there was little he could improve at Inter. He went about changing the entire formation and tactics insisting that Mourinho’s negativity will be replaced with fast fluid football. In a way it seemed as if he was trying to get one over on Mourinho by criticising his style of play and believing he could better it by adopting a two man attack. He soon realised this was becoming a laborious task largely due to the continuous absence of Diego Milito and the sheer lack of support for Samuel Eto’o whose goals were carrying the Nerazzurri for the early part of the campaign. He reverted back to the 4-3-3 formation but the damage had already been done. He drained believe and confidence out of his players as they were suffering humbling defeats at the likes of Chievo, Lazio and against rivals AC Milan.
The team has looked disjointed and lethargic for the past few months. A team that had brimmed with confidence last season under Mournho’s stewardship are now out of sorts. Even though he won The FIFA World Club Championship last weekend, Benitez’s fate was already sealed long before. The three defeats against Chievo, Lazio and Milan in particular – all in relatively quick succession – made up Moratti’s mind. A President who normally stands by his managers was disillusioned himself with Benitez’s mindset.
One of Benitez’s first acts as coach was to take down all of the photographs of Jose Mourinho at the clubs training headquarters. That was a clear act of disrespect to a man who gave so much joy and happiness to the fans and players at the club during his two year stint. Jose responded in a gracious manner – although he was quick to point out that Benitez was coaching his team
“I don’t need photos to make those around me love me as they carry me in their hearts. When I was Inter coach I never asked for the images of Herrera or Mancini to be taken down…If they don’t like my photos it’s not a problem. I always shared a great rapport with the Inter family.
“I wish Benitez success in his new role, not because I love him but because he is coaching a team that belongs to me, my fans and my president.”
After Inter won the Suppercoppa Italiana back in August Benitez wasn’t exactly being diligent with his comments. He should have been man enough and smart enough to realise the enormity of the success that Mourinho had brought to the club and be gracious about it. Why didn’t he just swallow his pride and praise the accomplishments? Why didn’t he just state his intention to replicate them? Whether he liked Mourinho or not it doesn’t really matter and common sense should have prevailed.
It’s clear that even the whisper of Mourinho’s name sparked a trigger inside Benitez’s head to lash out.
“He’s not here anymore, but if everything was so perfect then why did he leave? Why did he choose to join another team?” jibing Mourinho for departing the club to go to Real Madrid.
That was soon followed up with his comments stating that he thinks Jose is not the ideal coach for Madrid. He really did himself no favours. The Nerazzurri faithful adore the ‘Special One’ and although Jose can give as good as he gets he didn’t deserve the constant negative critisim. He should have been applauded for his efforts at the club by the successor.
What has ultimately sealed Rafa’s fate is his public ultimatum to the club. Demanding cash and support from the hierarchies.
“There are three possibilities for the club. One, 100% support for the coach and buy four or five players to build a stronger team with competition among the players to be able to carry on winning matches and trophies.
“Two, carry on like this without a project, without planning, and go ahead with one person to blame, for the whole season.
“The third, is to speak to my agent to reach an agreement if there is not this support. Simple.”
It does make you wonder if he was anchoring for the sack with such a deluded statement. Moratti always backs his managers but even he realises that although some members of the team are ageing he doesn’t’t expect to treated in the manner by a man who has only been at the club for six months. To deliver ultimatums like that in public was always going to stir trouble.
All in all had Rafa been more respectful to those who pioneered a period of success at the club and diligently built on the success then he would still have been in a job. Instead he opted to be like a Spanish bull in a china shop and completely erase all of last season’s methodologies with ones which have clearly cost him his hot seat.