Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benítez is said to be among the candidates to succeed Jose Mourinho at the Santiago Bernebéau if, as expected, the Portuguese leaves this summer.
In an interview with Radio Nacional de España, Benítez said Real Madrid, the home-town club where he was part of Vicente Del Bosque’s back-room team, remained his first love.
“I have a contract [with Chelsea] until the end of the season and I am going to do everything possible for this club to have the best success,” Benítez said.
“Real Madrid have a determined manager with a contract and this deserves respect. As a manager, you always have your sweetheart. I have a link with the fans and they have treated me well.
“I arrived at [Real] Madrid when I was 13-years-old and I’m from Madrid.
“But I don’t want to get involved in this speculation because my words aren’t always interpreted.”
“I have a good relationship with Vicente,” Benítez said of the Spain manager, whose contract expires next summer.
“But I can’t rule out one day becoming national coach when Vicente leaves.
“It’s something I will look at in the future, although for this I have to continue in elite football and keep doing things well.”
Commenting on the abuse he continues to receive from Chelsea fans Rafa said:
“The biggest problem is that I was manager of Liverpool and I am paying for the success I had at Liverpool.
“Nevertheless, I will keep working hard with professionalism, I am focused on achieving success with Chelsea. I am the happiest man in the world when we win a game.
“We are a team in transition and we are the team which has played the most games in all of Europe.
“You cannot do everything you want to do on a tactical level when you only have so much time.”
I cannot see a path to another Premier League for Rafa after this failed Chelsea experiment. No chairman of one of the top ten teams in the Premier League is going to hire him, even if Rafa wins the FA Cup or Europa League. The situation at Chelsea has become so bad that Benitez has become toxic.
It is not all his fault. He was never set up to succeed at Chelsea from day one when he was given the title of interim manager.
But none of that matters in Spain, where Benitez still has a terrific reputation as a strong technical coach. And it is that technical ability that puts him at or near the top of the list of successors to Jose Mourinho.
The irony is that Benitez and Mourinho might well simply swap jobs this summer, a move that will have both clubs feeling that they got the better of the deal.