LONDON, England, February 28- Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez’s patience with the club’s fans finally snapped on Wednesday as he confirmed his intention to leave the club at the end of the season.
Benitez has been targeted by sections of the club’s support ever since he was appointed as the successor to Roberto Di Matteo last November and below is his full rant.
Can you stay calm despite the fans’ abuse?
‘I have been in charge in football for 26 years. I have won the Champions League, won the FIFA Club World Cup, the FA Cup, the Italian Supper Cup, the Spanish league twice, nine trophies, all the trophies you can win at club level.
‘A group of fans, they are not doing any favours for the team when they are signing and wasting time preparing banners.
‘It’s because someone made a mistake. The put my title ‘interim manager’, and I will leave at the end of the season, so they don’t need to waste time with me.
‘They have to concentrate on supporting the team, that’s what they have to do.
‘In the end, they are not doing any favours to the club, to the rest of the fans and to the players.
‘Every game they continue singing and they continue preparing banners, they are wasting time. What they have to do is support the team.
‘If we cannot achieve what we expect to achieve, that is to be in the top four and be in the Champions League for next year, I will leave; they will stay in the Europa League.
‘They have to take responsibility too. If they put players under pressure, they don’t create a good atmosphere at Stamford Bridge, they have to realise they are making a big mistake because the rest of the fans would like to see the team in the Champions League next year.
‘It would be much better for everyone to have a good atmosphere and supporting the team, backing the players, and that’s it.
‘I’m the manager and I will be managing the team. I like to manage players and not names, so I will pick my team, and I will make decisions and at the end of the season, I will leave anyway because I am interim like they said.
‘Again, they are wasting time, they are wasting time. I have proved in these three months that I want to win every single game.
‘I am a professional and I am sure if we win, I will be the happiest man in the world.
‘But if a group of fans continue with their agenda and they continue not supporting the team and wasting time with these things, it’s there decision, but they are not doing any favours to the team, to the club, anyone.’
Do you expect the abuse to persist? Do you regret coming?
‘I am really pleased here. I have a very good group of players who are working very hard. It’s a top club, so it’s not a problem.
‘The problem is a group of people who think they can say what they want instead of supporting the team.
‘They have to support the team, they have to support the players and don’t waste any other things because they don’t need to be worried about me, I will leave at the end of the season, so why do they have to be worried?
‘I will do my job, I will try to win every game until the last minute, that’s it.’
Does the criticism hurt?
‘No, I am surprised. Again I will say I have won nine titles, all the titles that you can win at club level, in three different countries, so I think I have enough experience and enough quality as a manager to hear a group of people with an agenda carry on.
‘They don’t realise that I will leave at the end of the season. They don’t need to be worried about me, but what they have to do is support the team.
‘If they don’t do that and we are not in the Champions League at the end, they can blame whatever they want, but we will see the next year the Europa League.’
Did you always plan to play John Terry?
‘Yes. Everybody was happy because we won and it was a great performance.’
Should you be judged at the end of the season?
‘Again I will say, a group of fans, they don’t realise – the rest of the fans, they want to see the team in the Champions League.
‘This group of fans, they have an agenda, they say ‘We are right’. They can be right at the end of the season, it’s simple.
‘They put me there with the title ‘interim’, so why do they have to bother about that? Just carry on supporting the team.
‘It’s a team in transition – they don’t realise. In the past, we had Drogba, Essien, Kalou, these players, it was a very strong squad, players with experience in the Premier League.
‘Now we have a group of players with talent, really good players with talent, but they need time. It’s a time of transition.
‘But they don’t realise it was a time of transition when I came here. The team was not in the Champions League, the team has lost some trophies, so I am trying to do my best and I will try to do my best until the end, until the last minute.
‘It doesn’t matter what they say. I am a professional, I have experience and I will do my best.
‘But if they carry on in the same, they have to take responsibility because they are damaging the image of the club and the rest of the fans because people think all the fans are the same.
‘The Chelsea fans are really good, they support the team, but if they continue with their agenda, I don’t think they do any favours to the team.’
Will the negativity stop you making top four?
‘I will do my job, I will try to do my best, but again I will say, it would be easier to go to Stamford Bridge and have [them] supporting the team instead of thinking about, “What can we do?”, “What can we say?”.
Would you like the opportunity to carry on?
‘I have a title. Someone decided the title would be ‘interim’. Why? Just in case?
‘If they want to blame me for everything that is wrong and then they say, ‘We will put interim just in case’, fine, that is your decision.
‘I don’t agree, but it’s your decision and now everybody has to take responsibility. If we are in the Champions League, I will be the happiest man in the world.
‘But next year, I will leave anyway because I have finished my contract, so they don’t need to be worried about me. What they have to do is concentrate on supporting the team.
‘I have a contract until the end of the season, that’s it, so they don’t need to be worried about me.’
Did you not know the title would be ‘interim’?
‘It was a surprise for me.’
Did you think you could make it permanent?
‘I have a contract until the end of the season. As I said before, I have to do my job, that’s it.
‘But this group with an agenda, they carry on and I think it is wrong because it’s bad for the team.’
The club gave you the title interim?
‘Someone decided. I think it was a mistake, it’s very clear. I don’t know who decided that, but it was a mistake.
‘I am the manager and I will be the manager until the last minute until someone decides, ‘No, you are not’.
‘It will be in June – fine, so I will my job, no problem. To manage is to decide the team, the substitutions and everything until the end.
‘I did it for 26 years with nine titles and a lot of trophies in different countries.
‘I have enough experience, so if they want to waste time singing and preparing banners, they have to take responsibility too.’
Have they shown you a lack of respect?
‘No, I wouldn’t say this. Each one decides what they want to do. What I say is what I have done in my life as a professional and what I want to do in the future, hopefully, is win trophies here too.’
What percentage of fans are against you?
‘Some Chelsea fans.’
What if you were offered a new contract…
‘I will do my job until the last day and after, I will be really pleased if we can win trophies or we can be in the top four or in the top three or even top two.
‘I will do my job until the end and we will see.’
Was it a mistake to call you ‘interim’ manager?
‘Everybody is interim because after you, there is another one. But in this case, they didn’t have anyone, so why put ‘interim’?
‘It’s just to say to everyone, ‘Because he was in Liverpool and just in case, we will put interim and then we will wash our hands’.’
But was it a mistake from the start?
‘Yes, 100 per cent.’
Have you voiced that frustration?
‘I can’t change the title and the perception, so it doesn’t matter now. At the moment, what I have to do is be sure that I give 100 per cent every single day, that’s it.’
What do you think the reaction to this will be?
‘I think they will know that I am trying to do my best, that’s it.’
Sorry, but to be sure about the title interim…
‘Why do you need to do that? The manager is the manager – one month, three months, seven months, he’s the manager.
‘The reason why a group of fans is not happy is because I was Liverpool manager and we played in the Champions League, massive games. That’s it.
‘But you can’t change that. They were really good, we were really good, it was a confrontation at that stage.
‘I am the manager, I am professional and I want to clarify: I will do my best until the last minute, but if they carry on with this agenda, they are damaging the club, they are damaging the team and next year, if we cannot achieve the top four, they have to take a little bit of responsibility.’
Were you not told about the title?
‘I didn’t know. Obviously, you have an agent, they have to talk in Spanish-English translation, and I was surprised.
‘But I couldn’t change things because it was done. I thought it was a mistake, but still I couldn’t change anything.’
Rafa Benitez’s Chelsea timeline
November 21: Appointed as Chelsea’s interim first-team manager until the end of the season, replacing Roberto Di Matteo.
November 23: Suggests the established duo of Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard could leave the club at the end of the season.
December 5: After three Barclays Premier League games without a win, Chelsea register their first win under Benitez – a 6-1 Champions League drubbing of Nordsjaelland.
December 16: Lose Club World Cup final to Corinthians 1-0 in Japan.
December 19: Come from 1-0 down at half-time to win 5-1 at Leeds in the Capital One Cup.
December 23: Crush Aston Villa 8-0 in the Premier League.
January 9: Lose at home to the Premier League’s bottom club QPR.
January 23: Bow out of the Capital One Cup, losing to Swansea over two legs in the semi-final.
January 27: Chelsea need a late goal from Fernando Torres to secure an FA Cup replay against Brentford – which they win.
January 29: Declares his only real worry at Chelsea is keeping his players on side.
February 8: Reveals he last spoke to owner Roman Abramovich almost three weeks previously.
February 26: Amid reports of disharmony in the camp, which he plays down, Benitez says nothing will deflect his focus from helping the squad secure a successful end to a turbulent season.
February 27: Chelsea book an FA Cup quarter-final trip to Manchester United with a 2-0 fifth-round win at Middlesbrough. Benitez then blasts the fans and the club in furious rant.