Solving the Torres question key to Benitez prospects

LONDON Thu Nov 22, 2012 7:04am IST

Rafael Benitez reacts at a Champions League soccer match at the Weser stadium in the northern German town of Bremen December 7, 2010. REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen/Files

Rafael Benitez reacts at a Champions League soccer match at the Weser stadium in the northern German town of Bremen December 7, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Morris Mac Matzen/Files

Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers ride their camels as they rehearse for the "Beating the Retreat" ceremony in New Delhi January 27, 2015. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

"Beating The Retreat" Rehearsals

Rehearsals are on for "Beating the Retreat" ceremony which symbolises retreat after a day on the battlefield, and marks the official end of the Republic Day celebrations.  Slideshow 

LONDON (Reuters) - If Rafa Benitez can get Fernando Torres playing for Chelsea as he did under his fellow Spaniard for Liverpool then Roman Abramovich's latest throw of the managerial dice will look like a double six.

Benitez was appointed on Wednesday until the end of the season with his immediate task being to shore up a porous defence that has contributed to a run of only two wins in eight games that has left the European champions on the verge of an embarrassing group stage exit from the Champions League.

Their 3-0 defeat at Juventus on Tuesday spelt the end of the line for Roberto Di Matteo and meant Chelsea's prospects are out of their own hands in the final round.

Di Matteo was brought in himself as a stop-gap after the sacking of Andrea Villas-Boas last season but then got the job on a permanent basis after giving owner Roman Abramovich the "big one" in May.

But "permanent" means something entirely different at Chelsea than elsewhere, as evidenced by the nine managers who have now been in the hot seat in the nine years since the Russian Billionaire bought the club.

Villas Boas, now Tottenham Hotspur manager, lasted a similar time to Di Matteo's 262-day reign while Carlo Ancelotti was positively long-serving with his two years.

What Ancelotti, Villas Boas and Di Matteo had in common was their frustration with the performances of Torres, bought under Ancelotti's reign for a stunning 50 million pounds in January 2011.

All three men kept faith with the Spaniard in the face of poor returns before eventually dropping him. Di Matteo went furthest however, dropping him from Tuesday's team to face Juventus despite not having another recognised striker in the team.


Torres has cut a forlorn figure for most of his time in London but linking up again with Benitez, who bought him for Liverpool from Atletico Madrid in July 2007, could finally kick-start his Stamford Bridge career

"Rafa Benitez has been the most important coach in my career. He has been the only one who knew how to help me improve." Those were the words of Torres not in his Liverpool pomp but a year ago when he was agonising over his 25-game scoreless streak for club and country.

The striker has found the net on a reasonably regular basis this season, with seven goals from 19 games, but still looks a shadow of the razor-sharp penalty-box poacher who scored 81 goals in 142 games for Liverpool including 33 in his first season.

Benitez has been without a club for two years after lasting just six months at Inter Milan, and reports said he turned down a short-term deal at Chelsea last season.

The received wisdom is that he is now merely keeping the seat warm for Pep Guardiola, the former Barcelona coach who is enjoying a year's sabbatical from the game, but Benitez will not see it that way.

Just like Jose Mourinho, the man he locked horns with during those classic Liverpool v Chelsea Champions League clashes of the early 2000s, Benitez is his own number one fan and will no doubt expect to make the job his own beyond this season.

Di Matteo got off to a flying start last year when he turned round a 3-1 first-leg deficit against Napoli in the Champions League first knockout round to win the tie and go on to lift the trophy and then get the full-time job.

Benitez faces a much tougher task as even if his new team get their expected win over Danish side Nordsjaelland in their final Group E game in two weeks, a draw between Shakhtar Donetsk and Juventus in Ukraine will send both through.

The Premier League situation is far more salvageable, however. Chelsea are currently third on 24 points, three behind Manchester United and four behind Manchester City, who they play at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Chelsea fans will no doubt find it a bit odd to be saluting a man who was the pantomime villain as the teams met relentlessly in domestic and European action a few years ago.

In the Champions League Benitez revelled loudly in Liverpool's triumph via Luis Garcia's "ghost goal" in the 2005 semi-final and again in 2007.

Chelsea, by then under another temporary boss in the form of Avram Grant, gained revenge in 2008.

Success shortens the memory, however, and should a revitalised Torres suddenly start banging in the goals at one end and Chelsea's defence and stiffened midfield stop leaking them at the other, Benitez will be the toast of west London.


After wave of QE, onus shifts to leaders to boost economy

DAVOS, Switzerland - Central banks have done their best to rescue the world economy by printing money and politicians must now act fast to enact structural reforms and pro-investment policies to boost growth, central bankers said on Saturday.

Reuters Showcase

ONGC Share Sale

ONGC Share Sale

ONGC share sale scheduled for this fiscal - oil minister  Full Article 

The Apple logo is pictured inside the newly opened Omotesando Apple store at a shopping district in Tokyo June 26, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino/Files

Record Earnings

Apple iPhone sales trample expectations as profit sets global record  Full Article 

'Umrika' At Sundance

'Umrika' At Sundance

From Oscars to Sundance, Sharma and Revolori discuss India's 'Umrika'  Full Article 

Australian Open

Australian Open

Smooth Wawrinka, ill Serena through to Melbourne semis   Full Article 

India's Male Tenor

India's Male Tenor

India's lone male tenor aims to sing opera in local key  Full Article 

Japan Hostages

Japan Hostages

Mother of Japanese captive begs PM to save son held by Islamic State  Full Article 

Tripoli Attack

Tripoli Attack

Frenchman, American among those killed in Tripoli hotel attack - Libyan official.  Full Article 

U.S. Blizzard

U.S. Blizzard

Blizzard hits Boston and New England, spares New York despite forecasts.  Full Article 

Spying Row

Spying Row

Spying program leaked by Snowden is tied to campaign in many countries.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage