- Premier League
'Interim' title not an issue for Rafa
Rafael Benitez has claimed the title of 'interim manager' is no longer an issue for him, despite suggesting otherwise during his outburst last Wednesday.
The Chelsea boss hit out at the club's decision to label his position in such a way after the midweek win at Middlesbrough, while also taking aim at the team's hierarchy and supporters.
In an occasionally tense Friday pre-match press conference, however, Benitez seemed to backtrack on that statement, also insisting he has no problems with anyone at the club, nor any regrets about taking the job.
"It [the 'interim' title] is not an issue now. I said before, one thing is a mistake, another is an issue. Now it is not an issue," he said. "It's just a point that came across. You've been writing about that. Still, I think it's not a problem because we have an important game now."
Benitez's explanation as to why exactly he chose a routine 2-0 FA Cup win over Middlesbrough to bring up the issue was somewhat evasive.
"Trying to do the best for my team," he said. "The best for my team is to have a very good atmosphere behind them, feeling their support like against Napoli [last season], and Arsenal. They were running an extra mile. I was trying to explain that if we stick together it will be easier."
When asked whether he had spoken to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich since the outburst, Benitez said "that is my business", but reiterated he has no issue with anyone at the club.
"It was not the case. I have read I have problems with Michael Emenalo (technical director) and the board," he said. "Not true. Yesterday I was with Ron Gourlay (chief executive) and we were talking, he was joking about it being cold and us training in shorts. Normal conversations about football. I have some experience of doing things, normally. With respect, education, passion and ambition, we can win trophies. This is a top side and we can still win two trophies.
"The message was very clear. If we are together, it will be easier to win games, get points and be in the top four, top three or maybe the top two. I can control what I say. I cannot control what some people write.
"Very clear: I don't have any problem with anyone, with the owner, the board, the players, Emenalo. I am talking with Emenalo every day, the board when they are around, the owner when he is around. We have 11 games to play, three points each game, we want to be in the top four. If we stick together, we'll be okay."
Benitez also stated his relationship with John Terry is "fine". "He's the captain, another player in the squad, fine, similar to the other players," he said.
After plenty of pushing, Benitez finally admitted to not regretting taking the Chelsea job on in the first place.
"When I decided to come here, it was because I have ambition," he said. "I have passion for the game, and I want to win trophies. This was a top side and a great opportunity. We are still playing for two trophies and I'll try my best to win them. It was a great opportunity to win trophies, so no. [No regrets]."