With Rafa Benitez’s extraordinary outburst minutes following Chelsea’s English FA Cup defeat of Middlesbrough confirming that he will not be managing the Blues next season, betting markets on the next Stamford Bridge supremo are going mad.
Benitez did not miss anyone connected with Chelsea with his spray, criticising Blues fans for their treatment of him since he succeeded Roberto Di Matteo in November 2012 and saying that he thought that Blues officials made a mistake in describing him as the team’s interim manager, terminology that makes it easy for people to question his authority.
Bookmakers think that Benitez is odds on to get the chop before his temporary contract expires in the European summer, believing that his position is untenable after slamming Chelsea’s supporters and management executives.
However, Benitez has more backbone than most of his critics so, provided that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich does not make his second hasty decision of the current campaign, the experienced 52-year-old Spaniard may go the distance and reward punters who back him at odds of around 5-4.
But perhaps there is a 66-1 bet pertaining to the Chelsea hot seat on which it is worth investing a little bit of money. Those are the juicy odds that one can get about Abramovich giving the task of managing the Blues at the start of next term’s English Premier League competition to the current Chelsea captain and club legend, John Terry.
Certainly some bookmakers think that Terry is a legitimate contender for the Chelsea job, with the most successful skipper in the side’s long history as short as 16-1 in a market that is similar with not exactly the same.
Terry has had some high-profile troubles on and off the pitch but there is a degree of sense in backing him to succeed Benitez in a full-time capacity, particularly in light of the enormous odds that are available currently.
No-one is arguing that Jose Mourinho is the most likely person to lead Chelsea into next season’s domestic and continental competitions. The Blues fans love the Special One and it would seem that Abramovich would rehire the Portuguese having missed out on Pep Guardiola, the Spaniard who has signed a three-year deal with Bayern Munchen.
Mourinho is odds on with some bookmakers to swap Real Madrid for Chelsea but will he make the switch when push comes to shove? The Special One is contracted to the Meringues until 2016 and, while he may relish the challenge the righting the good ship Stamford Bridge, he may not want to lock horns with Abramovich again, six years on from his departure.
And if Mourinho refuses to be the next Chelsea fall guy, to whom will Abramovich turn? According to the betting, the non-Special One frontrunners for the poisoned chalice are Malaga’s Manuel Pelligrini, Everton’s David Moyes and Russia’s Fabio Capello. Other famous names in the mix are Brighton’s Gus Poyet, Swansea’s Michael Laudrup and Avram Grant, the latter of whom is out of work at the moment.
Any self-respecting manager with a reputation to protect is likely to think twice about accepting the Chelsea position after not only seeing the treatment that Blues fans have handed out to Benitez but also recalling that Abramovich sacked Di Matteo six months after he led the west London side to UEFA Champions League glory in Germany.
Abramovich may have more money in the bank than some nations but even his billions may not be enough to get many of his prime targets to sign on the dotted line. And do not forget that the Russian oligarch could do with making a popular appointment following the debacle of hiring Benitez.
It was before Abramovich’s time but Chelsea has a history of promoting from within – both Ruud Gullit and Gianluca Vialli had successful stints as player-manager of the Blues in the late 1990s – and the consensus among football analysts is that Terry, for all his faults, knows football inside out.
If Mourinho turns down Abramovich’s advances, Terry could be one of the very few serious candidates who actually wants the job. Acclaimed British football journalist David Lacey floated the idea of Chelsea installing Terry as its boss this time last year. Lacey is a smart cookie and he would not have written it just to make a headline or two.