Rafael Benitez finished at Chelsea
Rafael Benitez's reign as Chelsea manager was on the brink of ending last night after an astonishing rant at the club's owners and fans.
Benitez launched an incredible attack on the interim title he was given when he was unveiled as Roberto Di Matteo's successor in November after his side beat Middlesbrough to reach the FA Cup quarter-final last night.
The former Liverpool manager was again on the end of abusive songs from the 2,000 travelling Chelsea supporters at the Riverside Stadium and finally reacted in a stunning attack.
"A group of fans, they are not doing any favours for the team when they are singing and wasting time preparing banners," he said. "It's because someone made a mistake. They put my title 'interim manager', and I will leave at the end of the season, so they don't need to waste time with me. I have been in charge in football for 26 years. I have won the Champions League, won the Fifa Club World Cup, the FA Cup, the Italian Super Cup, the Spanish league twice, nine trophies, all the trophies you can win at club level."
Benitez's position, despite its temporary nature, has been in doubt for some time with the club being linked to a series of managerial replacements for this summer.
Events this week have brought things to a head. The former Liverpool manager admitted to an "exchange of ideas" with players on the training ground on Monday after a disappointing defeat at Manchester City left their qualification for the Champions League at risk. He also conceded captin John Terry, said to have confronted him, was frustrated.
However, what most concerns owner Roman Abramovich, who has already sacked two managers within the last year, is that Chelsea could fail to finish in the top four this season and miss out on Champions League qualification.
What Rafa said
ON FANS' ANTI-BENITEZ CHANTS
:: "I have been in charge in football for 26 years. I have won the Champions League, won the FIFA Club World Cup, the FA Cup, the Italian Supper Cup, the Spanish league twice, nine trophies, all the trophies you can win at club level.
"A group of fans, they are not doing any favours for the team when they are singing and wasting time preparing banners.
"It's because someone made a mistake. They put my title 'interim manager', and I will leave at the end of the season, so they don't need to waste time with me.
"They have to concentrate on supporting the team, that's what they have to do.
"In the end, they are not doing any favours to the club, to the rest of the fans and to the players."
:: "If we cannot achieve what we expect to achieve, that is to be in the top four and be in the Champions League for next year, I will leave; they will stay in the Europa League."
:: "Again I will say, a group of fans, they don't realise - the rest of the fans, they want to see the team in the Champions League.
"This group of fans, they have an agenda, they say 'We are right'. They can be right at the end of the season, it's simple."
:: "They are damaging the image of the club and the rest of the fans because people think all the fans are the same.
"The Chelsea fans are really good, they support the team, but if they continue with their agenda, I don't think they do any favours to the team."
:: "I am the manager, I am professional and I want to clarify: I will do my best until the last minute, but if they carry on with this agenda, they are damaging the club, they are damaging the team and next year, if we cannot achieve the top four, they have to take a little bit of responsibility."
ON BEING INTERIM MANAGER
:: "It (the 'interim' title) was a surprise for me.
"Someone decided. I think it was a mistake, it's very clear. I don't know who decided that, but it was a mistake.
"I am the manager and I will be the manager until the last minute until someone decides, 'No, you are not'."
:: "Everybody is interim because after you, there is another one. But in this case, they didn't have anyone, so why put 'interim'?
"It's just to say to everyone, 'Because he was in Liverpool and just in case, we will put interim and then we will wash our hands'."
:: Was the title a mistake from the start? "Yes, 100%."
:: "I didn't know [about the title]. Obviously, you have an agent, they have to talk in Spanish-English translation, and I was surprised.
"But I couldn't change things because it was done. I thought it was a mistake, but still I couldn't change anything."
ON HOW THE CHELSEA HIERARCHY WILL RESPOND TO HIS WORDS
:: "I think they will know that I am trying to do my best, that's it."
Belfast Telegraph Digital