21 December ~ Following José Mourinho was always going to be a thankless task for Rafael Benítez. Not only did Mourinho win just about everything there is to win during his time in charge at Inter, he was also an exciting, passionate and absorbing public figure and front-man, a pantomime hero and a pantomime villain all at once. Benítez, on the other hand, could not be more different. He has neither the charm nor charisma of Mourinho. In short, he is a PR disaster.
Winning the Club World Cup should have vindicated Benítez (even if it was Mourinho who presented him with the opportunity in the first place). It should have gone some way to silencing his critics, in turn, buying him both time and bargaining power against those who questioned his suitability for the role. For one night at least, Benítez should have let the football and the victory do the talking. All he had to do was be humble in public.
Instead, Benítez has managed to put himself under even more pressure by giving an acceptance speech in which he managed to criticise his players, alienate the Inter fans, offend and belittle his boss, club president Massimo Moratti, before effectively offering the board an ultimatum: "I dedicate the win to my family, to Spain, to Liverpool supporters, to the staff, to the players, to [Walter] Samuel," Benítez said confusingly, before launching into the following outburst: "Now we will have a calmer period but to go forward we need total support, if we get that we can improve. By support, I mean first and foremost in the transfer market. I've spoken to Moratti and he knows what about. I've always done my job, right from the beginning and I need to have control of the players and what they do. If I have this support, which you should always have and should be total, otherwise you're always blaming someone and the team doesn't improve."
"I deserve respect," he continued, "I've shouldered all the blows and all the responsibilities but in August the club promised me three players but no one arrived. Now there are three roads: either the club buys four players right now in January or we continue like this with the coach who is the only person to blame or otherwise the president speaks to my agent and we find a solution. Last year, Moratti spent €80 million (£68m) on five players, but this year with a new coach he's spent nothing. After the summer I was 100 per cent disappointed with the transfer market. I want to know what the players are doing. These lads have done no gym work for two years and to compensate for this athletic work they go to the gym without my knowing, and they hide problems and injuries."
Having done the only thing he could do to ease the pressure on his position – win the Club World Cup – Benítez may have just sabotaged his good work by making these comments. Clearly he had some things he wanted to get off his chest. Furthermore, his comments were honest and, placed in some degree of perspective, suggest this is a man who takes pride in what he does. To everyone else, however, it's hard not to see this as anything other than PR suicide. Walking with a pistol to his head? Benítez might just have pulled the trigger on himself. Isidore Lewis