Early Doors

Happy holidays, Rafa

Early Doors

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After days of speculation we finally have confrmation that Rafael Benitez has left Internazionale just six months into his job with the European champions.

Well, Early Doors says days; but in reality there has been talk of him being axed virtually since he took charge in the summer.

"FC Internazionale and Rafael Benitez have reached a satisfactory consensus and agreed to the early termination of their relationship," a statement on Inter's official website read. Now the speculation can start as to who will be his replacement.

Benitez and Inter president Massimo Moratti have both been coy about this issue as Rafa's representatives attempt to iron out a compensation package. Considering he reportedly banked £6m when he left Liverpool, he's obviously got the right men on the case.

Rafa has been back at his house on Merseyside for the past few days, cheerily bringing out cuppas to reporters camped outside. He was visibly relieved as he employed the oldest trick in the book to placate the press pack outside his front gate.

His presence back in England has led to speculation that he could oust Roy Hodgson and retake his former position at Liverpool, with even Hodgson responding to the speculation: "It would be surprising because if he was the right man for the job then it would have been wiser not to let him go six months ago and then bring him back."

When his people were haggling over his Anfield severance package back in June, Rafa took off to the Mediterranean, so it is no surprise that he has flown the opposite way while the terms of his exit are being hammered out in Milan.

Following a man like Jose Mourinho and the incredible success Inter had last term was always going to be tough for any manager. If Rafa had picked up where his Portuguese predecessor had left off, then he would have received little credit.

However, at the helm of a team that stuttered through the group stages of the Champions League and dropped well off the pace domestically, he had little defence against the critics.

It's easy to brand him as the man with the reverse Midas touch, especially after he undid so much of his own good work during his five years at Anfield, but some elements had conspired against him.

Striker Diego Milito, such a key component of the Inter team that swept aside all before them last season, has missed a big chunk of the season through injury, as have goalkeeper Julio Cesar and right-back Maicon, while playmaker Wesley Sneijder revealed last month that he has been suffering with anaemia. Any list of the world's best players in those respective positions will invariably feature those four names somewhere near the top, so their absences cannot help but be felt.

Another factor is that, after Inter attained their status as top dogs in Italy almost by default amid the fallout of the Calciopoli scandal of 2006, the top clubs which were sanctioned following the match-fixing investigation have all now fully got their act together.

Juventus - the main villains of the piece - are finally a force again under the stewardship of Luigi Delneri, Lazio are in the upper echelons of Serie A once again having topped the table earlier in the season, and current leaders Milan have got Zlatan Ibrahimovic. And history shows quite emphatically that when you've got Zlatan, you win the league - no matter which league that may be.

This is not a list of excuses compiled to prove that Rafa has been stitched, but it is worth balancing the case rather than simply revelling in a manager being sacked after less than six months in a job, which is rarely a good thing.

Perhaps Moratti has had as much stability as he can stand, and yearns to return to the days of the head coach's office door being a revolving one, but another man with Benitez's track record (two Spanish titles, one Champions League and another final) will be hard to come by.

We should now brace ourselves for him to be linked with every job going. Mind you, seeing as there aren't really any jobs available - not even at Blackburn anymore - perhaps this is a good time for him to take a break.

After a decade of constant work and reasonably consistent success, Benitez has endured 18 months that he - just like fans of Liverpool and Inter - would rather forget, so some time out of the game to recharge would do him good. It's time for him to take a holiday that extends much longer than just into the new year.  

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If Liverpool had 10 players like Carragher, then they would never win anything. Carragher, for me, is nothing. He's like a make of ketchup or mustard to a normal person: not important. I played for Liverpool for two years and Carragher never spoke to me. That's life, some people are like that." - Blackburn's El-Hadji Diouf lays into former Liverpool team-mate Jamie Carragher, and introduces a new insult to ED's locker.

FOREIGN VIEW: "I would like (Guardiola) to be the Ferguson of Barca. And later the Beckenbauer. That is to say, that after coaching the team he becomes club president." - Barcelona president Sandro Rosell has big plans for manager Pep Guardiola, who has been on a one-year rolling contract since taking over in 2008.

COMING UP: Today's Tactical Debate video takes a look at how Manchester City still need to plan for life without Carlos Tevez. Later on, The Fantasist will be dropping in for the latest webchat to talk about the Christmas fixtures related to Yahoo! Fantasy Football.

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