Belfast Telegraph

Steven Beacom: Rafa Benitez’s gaffer options in England are limited

With Rafael Benitez leaving Inter Milan, the feeling is that the former Liverpool boss would love a job in English football again.

But looking at the possibilities in the Barclays Premier League, Rafa’s options are going to be few and far between.

ARSENAL: After watching such expressive football under Arsene Wenger for years, I doubt Rafa’s more negative approach would be welcomed by Gooners.

ASTON VILLA: Gerard Houllier is under pressure, so a vacancy at Villa Park in the near future is possible. Benitez’s finest hour was leading Liverpool to Champions League glory in 2005, yet his predecessor at Anfield, Houllier, said it was his team, so taking over from the Frenchman might appeal.

BIRMINGHAM: Alex McLeish seems as safe as houses, but possible if the big Scot ever leaves.

BLACKBURN: Taking over at the club where Sam Allardyce was unceremoniously sacked would be considered ironic by Rafa, but the Indian owners say Steve Kean will stay as boss until the end of the season.

BLACKPOOL: Following Ian Holloway at Blackpool will be like following Ferguson at Manchester United. Even if Rafa was silly enough to go for it, the low salary would put him off.

BOLTON: Owen Coyle can stay at the Reebok for as long as he likes. The only way he is moving is if a bigger club come in for him, say like Spurs when Harry Redknapp gets the England job.

CHELSEA: More chance of Ray Wilkins coming back, though Roman Abramovich is always capable of surprises. After his spats with Chelsea icon Jose Mourinho, Rafa is less popular with Blues fans than Sir Alex.

EVERTON: Benitez famously called Everton a small club when he was at Liverpool, so I think we can safely rule this one out if David Moyes ever leaves Goodison.

FULHAM: Now we are talking. Mark Hughes needs to get a few results quickly otherwise the heat will be on him at the Cottage. Mohamed Al Fayed and Rafael Benitez? Match made in heaven. Imagine being a fly in the wall in meetings between those two!

LIVERPOOL: He does feel he has unfinished business with the Reds. And his return to his home in Liverpool won’t do Roy Hodgson any favours. There are new owners at Anfield now and some fans who remain big supporters of Benitez, but a comeback would be just crazy. Benitez had his moments at Liverpool, one of them the best in the club’s history, but he is one of the main reasons why the Merseysiders are struggling so much these days.

MANCHESTER CITY: The owners seems to rate Roberto Mancini but a few more defeats like the one at home to Everton will change that. Not beyond the realms of possibility.

MANCHESTER UNITED: To quote Ian Paisley from a few years ago: Never, never, never. There’s more chance of big Ian inviting Gerry Adams round for Christmas dinner.

NEWCASTLE: After his experiences with the owners of Liverpool and Inter, I’m not sure even Benitez could stomach working under Mike Ashley.

STOKE: Benitez’s style of football might actually be easier on the eye than the current stuff. But with Tony Pulis as solid as a rock at Stoke, rule this one out.

SUNDERLAND: Steve Bruce is doing well at present and after the beach ball incident at the Stadium of Light, the place holds too many bad memories for the former Inter boss.

TOTTENHAM: Redknapp is favourite for the England job so he will need replacing, but after Benitez’s Inter Milan side were outclassed at White Hart Lane, the Spaniard did himself no favours. Again after the excitement Harry has brought, Rafa’s tactics wouldn’t go down well.

WBA: See Birmingham — replacing McLeish with Roberto Di Matteo.

WEST HAM: Avram Grant will be sacked soon, so this could be the first job Rafa would be lined up for. The thing is his old buddy Sam Allardyce would be a contender too. Sam v Rafa. Round 10 — Bring it on.

WIGAN: If he thought Everton were a small club, what does that make Wigan? Also I understand him and Wigan chairman Dave Whelan aren’t big pals. There’s a theme here, isn’t there?

WOLVES: The owner of Wolves is Steve Morgan who is a huge Liverpool fan and will have happy memories of Istanbul, but Mick McCarthy seems to be there for the long haul. In any case I’m not sure Benitez will want to manage in the Championship.

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