• FA Cup

Rafa slams fans & board as he confirms summer exit

ESPN staff
February 27, 2013 « UEFA rejects Schalke's Drogba appeal | Chartbeat test »

Rafa Benitez has confirmed he will not continue as Chelsea manager beyond the end of the current campaign.

The Spaniard, angry at continued criticism of him from the travelling Blues fans as Chelsea beat Middlesbrough in the FA Cup on Wednesday, made it clear in the immediate aftermath of the contest that he would not be remaining at Stamford Bridge beyond the end of his current short-term deal.

Benitez also offered a thinly-veiled criticism of club owner Roman Abramovich, suggesting the Russian made his job almost impossible by only appointing him as 'interim' boss.

Benitez argued that his temporary status made it easy for fans unhappy with his appointment to unsettle the club.

"I will leave at the end of the season," Benitez told BBC Radio Five Live. "They [the fans] don't need to worry about me."

He added: "They [the board and Abramovich] put me in the title of 'interim' manager. That was a massive mistake.

"Why did they need to do that? Maybe they thought, 'He was at Liverpool', so put the interim [title] in."

Benitez's outburst seemed to be sparked by some of the chanting from the away fans at the Riverside Stadium, as a section of supporters called for the Spaniard's head - just as many Blues fans have done ever since the former Liverpool boss was appointed in unpopular circumstances in November, following the exit of Roberto Di Matteo.

Benitez, clearly irate, more than once repeated an assertion that chants against him were only succeeding in harming the players in their pursuit of Champions League qualification.

"I am a manager, and I will manage the team until the end," Benitez said. "If they [the fans] are going to carry on with an agenda, then they have to take responsibility. Stick together and we can achieve what we need to. But they are not making any favour to the rest of the fans or the players.

"What they have to do is support the team and create a good atmosphere. If we cannot get the title we are after, to qualify for the Champions League, if they continue to sing and talking, talking ... they are not making any favours. They have to support the players and the team."

He added: "I am a professional. I am doing my job. I want to win every single game for Chelsea football. What they need to do is support the team. They have to realise that the rest of the fans want to see the team in the Champions League next year.

"At the end of the season I will leave, they do not need to worry about me."

The former Valencia manager insisted that he did not have any problem with the players, despite rumours during the week of a bust-up with some senior figures.

"I am really pleased here," he said. "It is a top side, with top players who work hard. This is not a problem, the problem is people who think they can say what they want."

It remains to be seen if Abramovich - a man unafraid to sack managers, popular or unpopular, in the past - will allow Benitez to even see out the remainder of his temporary contract, following his critical comments about the board's handling of his tenure.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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