• Premier League

Benitez not concerned by hostile welcome at Chelsea

ESPN staff
November 22, 2012
Analysis: Will Benitez succeed at Chelsea?

Rafael Benitez stepped off a plane onto English soil on Thursday, and instantly met questions over disgruntled Chelsea fans who are concerned by the Spaniard's appointment.

Benitez, who is expected to appoint Boudewijn Zenden to his backroom staff, has not made himself a popular figure at Stamford Bridge over the years, once infamously mocking their waving of flags during a Champions League tie with former club Liverpool.

The then-Liverpool boss said in 2007: "We don't need to give away flags for our fans to wave - our supporters are always there with their hearts, and that is all we need. It's the passion of the fans that helps to win matches - not flags."

Benitez also vowed never to join Chelsea, but he signed a short-term deal with the west London club on Wednesday. Already a Chelsea fan has been spotted holding a "Rafa out" banner outside the club's training ground.

"The fans always want the same as the manager: To win games," Benitez said to Sky Sports News as he passed through the airport on Thursday.

"Chelsea are a top club, will be challenging for trophies, and they are a top side. We will think about one thing at a time, and start by thinking about the next game."

If a section of fans are against the appointment of Benitez, key player Juan Mata has a contrasting view, expressing his delight at the arrival following the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo. Mata rose to prominence at one of Benitez's former sides, Valencia, and although the pair never worked together at the Mestalla he is excited by the prospect.

"Rafa Benitez is a great coach," Mata told the Daily Mail. "He's got lots of experience and won a lot of trophies with Liverpool, taking them to a very high level. He knows the Premier League too.

"Di Matteo's sacking means things haven't been going well but we can't just blame it all on the Juventus game. With him as a manager, we won our first Champions League. He will always be remembered."

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