Rumours have been swirling regarding a potential Manchester City summer move for Napoli’s former Liverpool gaffer Rafa Benitez, with bwin going 4/1 about the Spaniard being the next Etihad chief.
Considering the credentials of the three City managers Abu Dhabi United Group have had since taking over in the North West in 2008, and the other likely candidates for the job should Manuel Pellegrini gets the heave-ho, Benitez’s appeal is obvious.
Mark Hughes was dispensed with fairly quickly after failing to get near the top four, but he wasn’t Khaldoon Al Mubarak’s man.
Roberto Mancini clearly was, and the 36-cap former Italy striker at least delivered a top-four finish followed by a Premier League before being booted out of the Etihad 12 months later, having failed to retain the title and blowing an FA Cup final against Wigan.
It was City’s poor Champions League form that did for Mancini, but if Al Mubarak wanted to dine at Europe’s top table quickly, he should have waited six months back in December 2009 for Benitez to become available.
Benitez had amassed a terrific haul of two La Liga titles, a Champions League, a UEFA Cup and an FA Cup with Valencia and Liverpool during the previous decade, but was on his last legs at a club going south under the dreadful stewardship of American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
Mancini, on the other hand, was fired from Inter despite winning his third Serie A in a row (although all came during Calciopoli) because he couldn’t advance the club in Europe, with the Nerazzurri limply dismissed from the Champions League by Liverpool in 2007/08.
Manuel Pellegrini has done a better job at City, making it to the knockouts against the mighty Barcelona in each of his two seasons at the club, before wilting each time.
That being said, there’s no doubt Benitez’s overall European record, which includes another Champions League final appearance with Liverpool and a Europa League triumph with Chelsea, beats the Chilean’s.
As for some of the other rumoured contenders to take over should Pellegrini get the sack, he beats them hands down.
City’s reserve team coach Patrick Vieira, a 7/1 shot with bwin, has never managed at senior level.
Former Argentine coach Alejandro Sabella may have led his country to the World Cup final last summer, but the 60-year-old has never managed in Europe. He’s 12/1 to be next Etihad chief.
Sevilla boss Unai Emery (25/1) only has a Europa League winners’ medal to show for his decade so far in management, while 20/1 shot Laurent Blanc has never taken a title outside his native France as a coach.
The obvious Benitez alternative among the realistic candidates for Pellegrini’s gig is 5/4 favourite Jurgen Klopp, who will reportedly leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season after seven campaigns at the club.
However, after BvB’s alarming fall from grace this season it’s clear the 47-year-old flavour-of-the-month doesn’t guarantee success.
Don’t forget, Benitez has won a trophy at his first season with every club, so his steady hand on the tiller might be just what City need.