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Benitez eyes move to 'top side'

ESPN staff
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Rafael Benitez says his prerogative is to manage a "top side" when he eventually leaves Chelsea, and that his next employers may not be English.

The Spaniard has already publicly stated that he will depart Stamford Bridge at the end of the season, while it has been widely suggested that he may even swap jobs with Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid.

Sources from the Benitez camp have admitted that he sees the Chelsea job as a step to one of three high-profile positions available in the summer - with one of them being the post at the Bernabeu.

When this was put to the Stamford Bridge boss, he said: "I like to win and challenge for trophies. I like to stay in a top side. Why not in England?"

He did, however, insist that it was "too early to talk about" any of that, and wouldn't say whether he would still be in charge of the club when they face Manchester City in a friendly in New York on May 25, claiming: "I have a contract, I am really pleased with the contract. I will try and concentrate on Rubin Kazan and not think about the summer."

Benitez also re-asserted his belief that this could be a "great" season as he stated "we are doing really well". Monday's 1-0 FA Cup victory over Manchester United does seem to have changed the atmosphere around Stamford Bridge, as the club remain on course for two trophies and a top-four finish.

Certainly, chants against the manager were notable by their absence, and full-back Ryan Bertrand believes there is even a different feel around the team. "There's a slight difference in ambience around the club when there's a win," he said. "There wasn't so much emphasis on it being Manchester United, it's just good to get a win."

Bertrand also offered support to Benitez, but refused to get drawn into any discussions about whether Chelsea should re-appoint him in May, saying: "I've enjoyed my time so far under him and we'll just leave it down to the club."

Bertrand took the field to replace the injured Ashley Cole on Monday and Benitez has completely dismissed Ray Wilkins' suggestions that the Spaniard's squad management led to the defender's troubles.

Speaking as a television pundit on Monday, Wilkins claimed the full-back would not have been affected had he played in the 2-1 defeat to Southampton less than 48 hours beforehand. Benitez, however, pointed to the date the comments were made as he dismissed the argument outright.

"April 1. You cannot take the comment seriously. It was April 1," he said. "I have a degree in sports science from Spain. It's the first time ever I've heard something like this. April 1."

Benitez's squad rotation has ironically attracted much attention this season for the opposite reason, but he insisted he could not have too many concerns about making changes for any single game because they are essential to compete in the long term.

"The most successful teams in England have been changing teams every single game and winning so you can make changes and recover," he added. "I don't see any problem. "You will change three, four players for the next one. That is the way to compete and be capable of winning every competition. They have to be ready, mentally and physically, and that is the way.

"We will have different options and fresh legs at the end of the season. [On Monday] we made seven changes, United made seven changes. I think it's normal in a top side."

"I think that we can win any game so it depends on players you pick but you have to be ready for any game. I think that we proved again, against a team at the top of the table [United], the manager with most trophies in England, that we can compete against anyone if we have time, if we have players available, because we have a lot of games. We have one game every three days.

"I'm happy with how we are doing at the moment. It was an important game for us. In two games, we did really well against United. That means to me we have this level."

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