Benitez Coy on Long-Term Prospects at Chelsea
Rafael Benitez is being coy about his prospects of staying at Chelsea beyond the end of the season, insisting on Thursday that his main ambitions as interim coach are to "win trophies and play good football."
The 52-year-old Spaniard was hired by the European champions on a seven-month contract Wednesday following the abrupt firing of Roberto Di Matteo.
Benitez is the ninth manager in the nine-year reign of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and many believe he is merely a short-term fix ahead of the likely hiring next summer of Pep Guardiola, the club's reported No.1 target.
"I don't care about the short-term (deal), what I have in my head is to win every game," he said. "We will see what happens — in seven months we can win some trophies."
Benitez returns to football management nearly two years after being fired by Inter Milan following just six months in charge.
He was more successful in previous spells with Valencia, where he won the Spanish league twice and the UEFA Cup, and with Liverpool, whom he led to the Champions League title in 2005 and another final in '07.
"Have you seen my CV? I have all the trophies you can win at club level," a relaxed Benitez said at his presentation.
"It's a great challenge," he added. "I have been waiting for this opportunity. I could have gone to another country with big, big money, (but) I wanted to stay in Europe, in England. I always said my priority would be the Premier League, with a top side. This is perfect."
Benitez said he hadn't spoken directly to Abramovich about his new role, which suggests the ruthless Russian owner sees the Spaniard as a caretaker coach more than a manager to carry the club forward in the long term.
"At this moment, I am here. I have the job," Benitez said, continuing to keep his cards close to his chest. "Winning games is a guarantee for everything. If you can do it in a row, you win trophies."
If Benitez is able to get the best out of struggling striker Fernando Torres — like he did in the pair's fruitful days at Liverpool — he could find himself around for longer than just this season.
Carlo Ancelotti and Andre Villas-Boas couldn't find a way of accommodating the Spain international, while Di Matteo's axing of the 50 million pound (then $81 million) forward for Tuesday's 3-0 loss at Juventus in the Champions League proved to be one of the Italian's last acts as manager.
Benitez has already shown he has a better idea than most about how to coax the best displays out of Torres. Under Benitez at Liverpool, he scored 33 goals in 46 matches in his first, stellar season at Anfield. Over the next two seasons, Torres scored 41 times in 70 games.
He has proved to be a shadow of his old self since making the big-money move to west London, lacking confidence in front of goal and with his own technique, yet managers have felt compelled to persist with Torres because of Abramovich's vast outlay on him.
"Today I was talking to him, his attitude was really good," Benitez said.
"Fernando is a top-class player. He is one of the important players of this team. I want to improve him as much I improve the others."
Benitez's first game in charge is against Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday. City, the reigning champion, is the unbeaten league leader, four points ahead of third-place Chelsea.