Benitez hints at Chelsea stay
Rafael Benitez has given his strongest indication yet that he wants to stay at Chelsea next season and suggested he does not need to win a trophy to do so.
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Benitez arrived at Stamford Bridge in November determined to land some silverware during his spell as interim manager.
But he has instead watched one piece after another slip from his grasp in the midst of a campaign in which Chelsea have competed on an unprecedented number of fronts.
Two trophies could vanish in the space of five days if they follow up Wednesday's Capital One Cup exit with an FA Cup fourth-round shock at Brentford on Sunday.
But despite no Chelsea manager having survived the axe at the end of a barren season since Roman Abramovich bought the club, Benitez claimed he should, and would, be judged by a different standard.
He said: "If you analyse all the managers, how many had pre-season here? Not me.
"How many managers have spent massive money here? Not me.
"How many managers have played in Japan in the middle of the season with some players injured and they had players in the African Cup of Nations? It is just only me.
"My conclusion is the reality is that if you put everything together and you will see why we are happy in the way we are doing things and the way the team is progressing."
Asked if he would like to stay on beyond the summer, Benitez said: "I like to be at a top side and Chelsea is a top side with great potential. So I think it's a great opportunity."
A permanent contract for the former Liverpool boss would go down like a lead balloon among the supporters who vehemently protested against his appointment.
Benitez was undeterred.
He said: "If we play a game like we played against Arsenal [last week], this is what every fan, everyone is expecting, a winning team with a winning mentality, attractive football, scoring goals and strong in defence."
Benitez also reined back from his recent admission that Chelsea were completely out of the Barclays Premier League title race, having closed to within 11 points of Manchester United.
"If you play two or three games in a row and you can win in the Premier League, what will happen? You never know," he said, promising a stronger challenge next season if he remained in charge.
Pointing out competing on an unprecedented eight fronts this season had stretched resources to the limit, he said: "I think this team has enough quality and the squad is a good squad.
"The circumstances this year were more difficult.
"If this club - which is a top, top side - continue doing things in the right way, they will always be challenging for trophies."
Benitez admitted Chelsea were two players short at present, with John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses on Africa Cup of Nations duty.
He insisted he was happy with his squad ahead of the closing of the transfer window but added: "Obviously, every manager wants a little bit more."
Benitez is preparing to rest some of his weary stars at Griffin Park, something that could put the FA Cup holders at risk of a shock against lower-league opponents.
The Spaniard knows all about those from his time at Liverpool, who suffered ignominious exits at the hands of Burnley, Barnsley and Reading during his six years in charge.
"We will try to win and avoid this situation but we know the cup is always dangerous and that anything can happen," he said.
A likely first start since November for fit-again captain John Terry would help prevent that.
"He is a key player for us and for the rest of the season," Benitez said, becoming the latest Chelsea boss to hail Terry as management material.
"We agree on a lot of things in football.
"We don't talk too much about tactics. But I have had players in the past who have been big names, who have not understood the game like him. He seems as though he understands.
"The way he treats the young players and takes care of them, it is quite possible he has the qualities to become a manager."