Rafa Benitez cut a lonely figure,as he stood in front of Inter Milan’s substitutes' bench as his side were beaten 2-0 by Atletico Madrid in the European Super Cup.
A poor second half saw the Nerazzurri, an all-conquering force under Jose Mourinho, outclassed by a surprisingly effective Atletico side in Monaco’s Louis II stadium.
As I watched Rafa staring into oblivion with the full time whistle approaching, I wondered whether he was regretting taking the job at the San Siro. The honeymoon has come to an abrupt end and there is no doubt this is going to be a long and arduous season for the former Liverpool boss.
Having taken over from Mourinho after Inter won an unprecedented treble, Benitez must have realized it was something of a poison chalice. This season, every time his side wins, it’s thanks to the work of his predecessor, while when they lose the finger will be pointing at him. That’s what you call a no-win-situation.
The allegations are damning, and the evidence of match-fixing produced by the British newspaper The News of The World could be devastating for the sport in Pakistan, where cricket is an obsession and a way of life.
That their players – their heroes, their icons – may have been involved in such a monumental scandal will be hard to swallow. That would be true at the best of times, but especially now, with Pakistan grappling with catastrophic flooding and a destabilizing terrorist insurgency.
The ray of hope and inspiration the players could have provided in the overseas Test series against England has been dramatically extinguished. The team was thrashed by their hosts, and have been publicly humiliated.
Many sports can be the victims of match-fixing, especially in the era of spread-betting where pundits can gamble on anything from the winner to the tiniest details of a match. Cricket is especially vulnerable, and it has been tarnished often in the past. Pakistan cricket has been faced with such allegations since the 1990s and already this year, several serious claims - yet to be proved - have been made.