August 29th, 2010
09:40 PM ET

Can Benitez survive Inter pressure cooker?

Has Rafa Benitez accepted a poison chalice by taking over at Inter Milan?
Has Rafa Benitez accepted a poison chalice by taking over at Inter Milan?

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 first cracks in Inter’s armour appeared not just on the pitch, but also after the whistle had blown. Rumors abounded among the journalists present that midfielder Dejan Stankovic had complained about playing on the wing, a position where he didn’t feel comfortable. Wesley Sneijder, who was one of the stars of last season’s team, was another frustrated after being substituted in the second half.

The body language exhibited by a couple of other players didn’t look encouraging either. Samuel Eto’o, who has already declared he won’t sacrifice his goals for defensive duties like he did last year with Mourinho, looked disinterested at times. The Cameroon striker, whose colossal ego was kept in check last season, could become a problem, just like he did at Barcelona before leaving the Camp Nou.

Benitez himself must have felt the tension in the air, because he found the need to send a message to president Massimo Moratti following the defeat. He did admit the team played poorly, and took responsibility for the fact, but then hinted that the squad needs to be improved. Now is this a message that you want to send to your boss or employees at this point in time? After all, this group of players won everything on offer last season.

The next few weeks could be crucial to Benitez’s future at Inter. One or two more defeats and the pressure will surely rise. The Spanish coach could yet enjoy some success at the club this campaign, especially if you consider there aren’t many teams capable of battling for the Serie A title, but my gut feeling is that the Spanish supremo won’t stay long at the San Siro. The Nerazzurri will struggle to make an impact in the European Champions League and that could spell the end of his reign at the club.

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soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. David Balamaze

    Its very early and if you take a look at Moratti's changing attitude on coaches, surely Rafa will still be there next season. Mancini apart from winning 2 or 3 titles didn't achieve anything in europe, Mourihno failed to impact in the first season there and both of them had more than a year at Inter. Another thing is that Inter are looking at 2013/14 season where the Uefa's rule of not involving any clubs financially poor (Inter currently is) becomes active and all they're looking at now is how they can beat the deadline. That's why they are looking at selling some of the best players (Balotelli to Man city or Maicon's persistent link to Madrid) and can't buy any 15m plus player like Mascherano or Kuyt.
    This is a new Inter which will look at financial issues first and then elsewhere secondly.
    Infact, It would be Rafa to leave. it's likely that the club will have failed to meet his demands and you can see that already they've not be met yet. He wanted Kuyt and Mascherano but the club failed to meet the prices. Pressure from the players? A bit of a Mourinho, Rafa's no nonsense too. These are big name players but he has dealt with the more tough English media on Gerrard and you could say he won.

    August 30, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Reply
  2. Claudia

    Honestly,I don't support Rafa's tactics of rotating players in almost all positions plus he keeps changing the team.It just kills the cohesion among the players.According to me,I think AC Milan though they have heavy-legged players will give Inter a run for their money.It's quite possible they might end up trophyless.

    August 30, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Reply
  3. bojana-belgrade

    To be honest,I think it's too early to predict anything. Mabye Rafa is still trying out team's possibilities,although,as a menager of his calibar,he should be able to recognize,which player is able to play on which position... it's not easy to take any team after Mourinho,let alone current CL winners! Euphoria is still present,expectations are big.
    But what every menager needs is a little bit of Mourihno's strictness-if you don't want to listen me,i'll find a player who will.Let's face it – they are not irreplaceable...Media rush will soon be over after Inter's first victory! Forza Nereazzurri! 🙂

    August 30, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Reply
  4. Roger Adamson

    Quite frankly I have never ever rated Benitez and he seems to be riding on some of the things he acheived at Villareal which was ages ago. At Liverpool he practically killed what talent and drive there was in Gerrard in the sense of letting the team gel and play as it really could, by Benitez constantly chopping and changing, selling key players and buying duds at the absolutely wrong time. Also his attitude that he was always right reaked of an arrogance which someone with many many more trophies should have carried, but not someone like Benitez. Sorry, but I thought he was total dud at Liverpool and has left them a shambles, and now he steps in where Mourinho's every touch turned to gold. His touch seems to just turn to the stuff you find on floor of a pig sty.

    September 1, 2010 at 6:00 am | Reply
  5. Prawin Bajracharya

    It would have been difficult for even Mourinho the repeat the season like last season. For Rafa it is out of question. In Liverpool also he was not too good wit mixing players during different competition. There are many cases where he rested several key player in BPL for UCL and hence dropped points.

    September 2, 2010 at 3:52 am | Reply
  6. Jakpo Omeru

    I think Benitez would have a tough time proving himself at Inter because he goes to Inter with a different approach to game from Mourinho's. I don't think Inter would come out of this season with any trophy because Italian Serie A on one hand has a very different pattern of football from the English Premiership and if he starts with the way of constantly rotating players, he might end up losing key players at the January transfer window. It also depends on if the Inter President can be patient enough to wait for his experimental lineups to get results.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:56 am | Reply
  7. eddy

    Benitez is not good enough to be Inter coach. i thought he could have look for a middle class club to handle. He buys and sell players without calculation, he enjoys and feels happy when he loses and draws matches. Please morrati start looking for another coach before it will be too late. I know the history Mourinho left there is not the type Benitez can cope with. Really Benitez is an average coach.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:45 am | Reply
  8. mugema stephen

    rafa rotates too much and it gets to the players. inter is a team with big name players just like liverpool but they need to play in certain postions even with all the talent...sorry rafa cant handle.

    September 3, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Reply
  9. Amanuel Babu

    Benitez is not an average coach!he's one of the best coach.Every body has some kind of limitations.Even Alex Fergi,Wenger,Mourinho and others.Too Early to judge!

    September 5, 2010 at 3:19 am | Reply
  10. Nasom Ngaro

    let's face it Rafa is a has been coach,here's a manager that bought a new starting eleven when he was at liverpool and won nothing. I really wish he didn't have to be at inter cos he's going to take them down. Look at the way he left liverpool and then you now have a clueless Roy Hodgson,who oh well just watch!!!

    September 13, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Reply
  11. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Internazionale has a fine team. Eto,o, Sneijder, Milito, Pandev, Walter Samuel, Lucio, Maicon, Zanetti, Chivo and Julio Cezar are all very much there. Best wishes to Senor Rafael Benitez.

    October 27, 2010 at 9:34 am | Reply

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