LONDON (Reuters) - Rafael Benitez is well-known for his “Rafa rants” and his latest tirade against employers Chelsea could further damage his reputation and chances of finding another job.
His blast after Wednesday’s FA Cup fifth round win at second tier Middlesbrough has already led to media speculation that he will be asked to leave earlier than the end of the season when his short-term deal runs out.
It was the very fact that he was installed as “interim” manager when he replaced sacked Champions League-winning boss Roberto Di Matteo in November that riled the Spaniard and led him to criticise the board after being undermined by fans.
“They gave me the title of interim manager which is a massive mistake,” he openly told a news conference.
Benitez has form for shock outbursts.
At Liverpool in 2009, he pulled a list out of his pocket during a news conference and catalogued his criticisms of Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.
His use of the term “facts” has become cult viewing on You Tube among English football fans.
United won the league that season with Liverpool second. Benitez, who had led the club to the 2005 Champions League title, left Anfield at the end of the next sorry campaign.
He then had the unenviable task of replacing previous nemesis Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan after the Portuguese had secured an unprecedented treble for the Italian side.
Injuries to top players ruined his first few months in charge but just when he appeared to be turning a corner, having won the 2010 Club World Cup, he launched a public attack on owner Massimo Moratti for not strengthening the team.
He was sacked soon afterwards with Moratti saying “the split had become inevitable” and that Benitez’s comments “were not suitable for the situation”.
Whether Chelsea fire him now for a similar rant remains to be seen but other potential future employers, with reports saying Mourinho’s current club Real Madrid are interested, may wonder if giving outspoken Benitez a job is too risky.
The chances of having his Chelsea deal extended looked over even before the former Real second-string coach and Valencia boss announced on Wednesday he would quit in May anyway out of pride.
The 52-year-old’s relations with the board, fans and, if reports are to be believed the team, are at such a low ebb that he could be removed now given Champions League qualification is not assured with Chelsea fourth in the Premier League.
Ruthless billionaire owner Roman Abramovich does not suffer fools gladly and Benitez may well expect a call in the morning, not least because he lambasted the club’s own fans as well for protesting against his appointment and short reign.
While at Liverpool he said he could never manage rivals Chelsea and supporters of the Londoners have never forgiven him.
Former Blues boss Mourinho, Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini and Swansea City’s Michael Laudrup are among the bookmakers’ favourites for the Chelsea role long-term.
Where Benitez goes long term is anybody’s guess. (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)