Tuesday night saw Inter Milan fall to a humiliating 3-0 defeat to Werder Bremen in the final group A game of the Champions League. They had already qualified for the last 16 and decided to rest a few players but Tottenham’s win over FC Twente ensure that Spurs finished top of the group leaving Rafa Benitez’ men with a potentially difficult tie in the next round.
The defeat was Inter Milan’s 7th of the season. Jose Mourinho only suffered seven defeats throughout the entire campaign the previous year. With Inter languishing in 5th place in Serie A, Inter fans must be wondering how they have come to fall this far from last season’s treble winning heroics.
If you look at the factors, however, there appears only one person to blame and that is Rafa Benitez. The squad has remained intact with no big departures over the summer. They still have the same squad that thrived under Mourinho so it is obvious to even the football novice that Benitez is the dud in the pack.
It was always going to be a tough act to follow Jose Mourinho’s final season at the San Siro. Inter became the first Italian team to ever win the treble of the Champions League, Serie A and Coppa Italia. The fans must have expected a little less from incoming Benitez but they would have demanded a lot more than they are getting at the moment.
To be honest; Rafa Benitez isn’t one of the top managers in the world of football. He did an amazing job with Valencia by securing two Spanish League titles (their first for 31 years). This achievement boosted Benitez’ profile and Liverpool swooped for the Spaniard, seeing him as the ideal man to lead them forward.
It is Benitez’ time with the Anfield club that clouds his reputation somewhat. Some see him as a hero for winning the Champions League in 2005 and winning the FA cup in 2006 but apart from that what did he really do? He spent a lot of money in the transfer market and made some very poor decisions. Securing Fernando Torres was a great coup but decisions like replacing Xabi Alonso with Alberto Aquilani were just ludicrous. Looking back, can Liverpool fans honestly say that Rafa Benitez was more of a success than Gerard Houlier?
Last season saw Liverpool finish a disappointing 7th in the league and Benitez’ inevitable sacking was announced at the end of the season.
So, the question is this: why on earth did Massimo Moratti think that Rafa Benitez would be the man to continue Jose Mourinho’s success?
For one thing the two managers like their teams to play completely different types of football. Benitez likes his teams to attack and enjoys tinkering about with his squad selection. Mourinho on the other hand employs a tight defensive strategy and commands his players to break on the counter attack. He also likes to play his best players and get some consistency going. They are two very different personalities as well. Mourinho is almost a showman; oozing with confidence and self satisfaction while Benitez is a more reserved character. Mourinho was the right person for Inter Milan’s squad. His ego eclipsed any individual player and his tactics perfectly melded with the talents of the team.
Benitez has a tough task in front of him if he wants to keep his job with the Nerrazurri. The club expects a lot more from their manager and anything less than winning the Serie A title will be seen as a huge disappointment.
I do feel for Benitez though. It’s the timing of his appointment that has really hindered him. As I’ve already said; following Jose Mourinho was never going to be a task that any manager would wish on other. Added to that is the increase in quality of the other teams. AC Milan have landed some huge transfers this summer, Robinho and Ibrahimovic being chief among them and this has seem them shoot to the top of the Italian league. It is a time of transition for the blue half of Milan while the red half are completing their return to grace.
I have the feeling that Benitez will be gone by the end of January. The Inter Milan board will look at the situation over the winter break and I just have a strange feeling that we might see a certain Carlo Ancelotti take over from Rafa, as the former’s days at Chelsea seem to be numbered.