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Rafa Benitez is leaving a good team for the incoming Mourinho

The Verdict - Steven Beacom

By Steven Beacom

Rafa did it then. Last night he achieved something that past and soon to be present Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has yet to experience.

Winning a European trophy with the west London club. Benitez 1 Mourinho 0.

You know the Spaniard will take great satisfaction in that.

And so after all the jeers, boos and chants telling him he was not wanted anywhere near the club let alone take charge of it, come Sunday, Rafael Benitez can leave Stamford Bridge with his head held high.

There's another trophy on the CV he takes such pride in and bitter rival Sir Alex Ferguson seems to take so much interest in.

Fergie may be interested to know Benitez has now won three major European titles as a manager, just one less than the great Scot.

In Rafa's last game as Chelsea's interim boss at the weekend he will face Ferguson's successor David Moyes and Everton, who the Spaniard once cheekily described as “a small club” after a Merseyside derby.

Everton fans still can't stand Benitez for that unnecessary jibe.

But that antagonism is nothing compared to the loathing of Chelsea supporters towards the former Liverpool boss.

They hated him long before he became boss. Taking over from Roberto Di Matteo, hero as a player and god for managing the side to Champions League glory last season, just made

their feelings much worse. They know Liverpool will forever be Rafa's first love in English football

Chelsea has been more a marriage of convenience for Benitez. He's taken all the abuse that has come with it, knowing he would get out after several months and move on where he is more appreciated.

It's worth pointing out though that in his fraught relationship with Chelsea, he has treated the club well.

With him Chelsea have been successful.

The Blues will be in the Champions League next season (privately, if not publicly, Mourinho will be grateful for that) and of course last night he guided the team to more silverware.

The Europa League may be treated with disdain by some in England, but it is a major trophy and carves out the type of history for the Blues that they should crave, especially when others mock them for having none at all.

Thanks to Branislav Ivanovic's brilliant injury time header, which gave Chelsea a dramatic 2-1 victory over Benfica in the Amsterdam ArenA, the Stamford Bridge side are the first side to be Champions League and Europa League/Uefa Cup holders at the same time.

Chelsea are also one of only four teams to have won those two trophies and the old Cup Winners' Cup, joining Juventus, Bayern Munich and Ajax on an illustrious list.

Not bad eh? Of course the players deserve huge credit.

The experienced Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Ivanovic and Frank Lampard continue to deliver while Juan Mata, Ramires and Eden Hazard, injured for the final, have enjoyed fine campaigns.

Even Fernando Torres came to the party last night, providing a superb finish.

Then there's Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich who has made all this possible with his riches.

But let's give Benitez some credit too.

He'll never be special to Chelsea supporters, but he will leave the club a winner.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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