Benitez backs Torres: 'I'm raring to go at Chelsea'
Rafael Benitez insists his hunger to succeed as a manager is greater than ever as he prepares to take over at Chelsea - and crucially gave his backing to goal-shy countryman Fernando Torres.
The Spaniard was confirmed as the new boss at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, less than 24 hours after the Blues had dispensed with the services of Roberto Di Matteo.
The Italian was axed in the immediate aftermath of their 3-0 Champions League defeat to Juventus in Turin on Tuesday.
Speculation immediately mounted that Benitez was the man owner Roman Abramovich wanted to take over and he was installed as the firm favourite for the post.
While that was going on, the 52-year-old – out of work since leaving Internazionale in December 2010 – was speaking at a coaching seminar hosted by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, where he told Sport360° he has been biding his time while he waited for an opportunity that matched his lofty ambitions.
And he added that his passion and appetite for silverware had only grown during his two-year spell in the managerial wilderness.
“The reason [I have not coached for nearly two years] is that you are looking for a top side that can challenge for trophies and that is my explanation,” he said.
“Some people ask and it is because there are not too many top sides that can challenge, so I have had to wait.
“The passion is still there, obviously even more now, because you want to show people. [You want to show them] that what you achieved – you may have won nine titles – but you want to win more trophies.
“The experience [of having time away] is good, it gives you time to think about what you were doing well and what you were doing badly, and when you have that I think you can improve.”
A fascinating sub-plot to Benitez’s appointment at Stamford Bridge is his reunion with misfit striker Torres.
Torres’ form at Liverpool under the guidance of his compatriot saw him emerge as one of the world’s finest centre forwards, and ultimately convinced Abramovich to spend £50million (Dh 293m) on recruiting him.
However, with his shoulders sunken, his performances errant and goalscoring sporadic, the Spanish international has cut a forlorn figure in a Blue shirt.
Benitez, though, retains confidence in his former talisman. “I think you can see in his face that he is almost trying too hard,” he added. “But I think the potential is still there.
"The problem with some players is that they are doing so well in a team and the understanding is so good that it is difficult to replicate that in another team.
“Sometimes it is a question of time, but he is a good player, is keen to learn and is a good professional.”
Speaking in the UAE capital - intrinsically linked with the Spaniard's career after he was sacked by Internazionale in the city back in December 2010 - Benitez said that Chelsea’s ability to challenge at the very peak of the game makes the chance to manage there appealing.
He said: “Chelsea is a top side and they can compete for trophies, so it goes in this category. I am looking for a club that can challenge for trophies and Chelsea is one.”