European champions Chelsea would have been better served putting former Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp in charge rather than Rafael Benitez, according to former Stamford Bridge great Alan Hudson. Spaniard Benitez, 52, was appointed as interim manager on Wednesday following the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo six months after the Italian led the London club to their first Champions League title.
"I wouldn't say Harry Redknapp is the best manager in the world but he's available after being sacked by Spurs and I think he would have been a much better choice than Benitez. It's not as if they need a great manager to come in and turn things around massively. Chelsea have already got the players, no question about that. They don't need anything radical. Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar are all fantastic in midfield so there's just one or two aspects of the team that need sorting out, the defence perhaps and maybe in attack,"Hudson told Reuters in an interview.
Former England midfielder Hudson, one of the golden boys of the Chelsea side who lifted the 1970 FA Cup and 1971 European Cup Winners' Cup, said he was shocked to hear that Di Matteo had been sacked.
"I've rarely been surprised by anything owner Roman Abramovich has done in the past but this time I'm totally stunned," he said. "I can't see what he is trying to do. I watched the 3-0 defeat by Juventus in the Champions League on the TV on Tuesday and I thought Chelsea were unlucky. Hazard, Oscar and Mata played really well in the first half and all three of them could easily have scored. Nine times out of 10 Mata would have scored when he ran clean through on goal. All the luck they had when they won the Champions League last season ran out on them because two of Juve's goals were deflected as well."
Benitez spent six years at Liverpool, plotting a remarkable comeback from 3-0 down when they beat AC Milan on penalties in the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul. The Anfield club reached the final again in 2007, Milan gaining revenge for their defeat two years earlier, but Liverpool's failure to contend consistently for the Premier League title cost Benitez his job in 2010.
Chelsea fans recoiled in horror when he was appointed until the end of the season and Hudson said he understand why they were so perplexed by Abramovich's decision to name his ninth manager in nine years.
"The supporters are going to be so angry," Hudson added. "He's looked upon by them as a Liverpool man. I didn't think anyone would give Benitez a job after he left Inter Milan a couple of years ago. At Liverpool he just brought in a lot of Spanish players, gave them all long contracts and the club still haven't recovered from that."
Football fans have long memories and Benitez faces an almost impossible task winning them over at Stamford Bridge especially after he taunted them during his time with Liverpool. The Londoners used to put Chelsea flags on every seat for Champions League home games and Benitez once said: "We don't need to give away stupid plastic flags to our fans to wave.
"It's the passion of the fans that helps Liverpool to win matches, not flags. Chelsea fans lack passion."
Some pundits believe that one of the reasons Benitez has been brought in by Abramovich is to get the best out of mis-firing striker Fernando Torres, his former frontman at Liverpool. The 61-year-old Hudson, though, scoffed at the idea.
"I said a while back I think Torres is a great centre forward and I haven't changed my mind," he said. "The problem is Chelsea are not playing the right system to get the best out of him and it's making him look a bad player. When I played with the King of Stamford Bridge Peter Osgood in the 1960s and 1970s he had a top man in Ian Hutchinson alongside him who made him look great. That's what Torres needs. He is playing as a lone striker and needs someone alongside to help him out."