Benitez settles at Inter, Adu's future uncertain and other musings
Rafa Benitez settled at Inter and aims to work on improving team's possession
Freddy Adu's stock in Europe is at an all-time low and should consider MLS return
Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez looks to have been a steal for Manchester United
NEW YORK -- By the time Rafael Benitez's six-year tenure as manager at Liverpool drew to a close this summer, it was clear to longtime observers that he was a changed man from the once quietly confident Spaniard who had first walked through the doors at Anfield. Appearing visibly stressed at times, the constant political infighting with the club's board and the continuous criticism from sections of the English media seemed to have finally taken its toll. When he succeeded Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan in June, one wondered if he would have been best served taking a year off and recharging instead.
And yet, in New York City last Thursday when Inter unveiled its new kit at Niketown for the upcoming season, the Benitez I met couldn't have been more different. Relaxed, beaming and happily settled into his new job and life in Milan, Benitez looked comfortable in his new role and excited to start anew. But when asked how he and his family were adjusting to life in Italy, there was still clearly a touch of melancholy about his time on Merseyside.
"They are still in England and so they still have time," he said. "We are looking around for a house [in Milan]. We're from Spain so I think we'll be OK [with the adjustment to Italy], but we were really happy in Liverpool, really pleased, but they think Milan will be a nice city.
"I am sure we will go [to Merseyside] on holidays, but I'd like to stay for a long time with Inter, which will mean that maybe we'll be successful. But we still have our house in England since we were really happy and the family were settled down there really well."
At Inter, Benitez couldn't have chosen a harder act to follow. Coming off a two-year span under Mourinho, the Nerazzurri have swept all before them, culminating in last season's spectacular treble. In a sense, you have to wonder if Benitez isn't setting himself up in a lose-lose situation. Win the treble again and he'll have merely matched Mourinho's achievements with what would be considered largely Mourinho's players. Anything less and he'll have fallen short, or even worse, perceived to have failed. However, Benitez doesn't seem concerned with the Mourinho comparisons.
"You have to also give credit to the players, because for years they had been winning already," Benitez said. "They were winning with [Roberto] Mancini, they were winning with Mourinho, so credit to them. We have the majority of players still, so if we can keep winning, for me it means that, yes, the club is strong enough. It's not talking about if you win, it was [solely because of] the manager or the coach. The players will play a key part in this situation."
Although the personnel remains largely the same (minus a couple of potential moves this week that could see forward Mario Balotelli leave the club, and the possible arrival of defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano from Liverpool for a fee in the $35 million range), expect Benitez to make some minor tweaks to the Inter system. It's still uncertain if he'll adopt his favored 4-2-3-1 formation, but it's clear that he wants to improve Inter's ability to retain the ball.
"The team is a good team, that is obvious, everyone knows this," he said. "The way that they played last season was good for them because they were winning. Talking with the players, speaking with a lot of people around the club, maybe we can improve a little bit on things and keep the things they were doing well. Part of this idea will be to have more possession if we can, so we will try."
As for former club Liverpool, there's no doubt that it retains a place in Benitez's heart, even after his acrimonious departure. On his way out, Benitez wished the team well and mentioned that he wasn't surprised to see star striker Fernando Torres re-commit to at least the upcoming campaign, but did note that "I was speaking with Fernando before and I know he wanted to win trophies and he wanted to play in the Champions League, so it was a difficult situation for him."
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