Following the departure of club legend Roberto Di Matteo, Benitez was parachuted into the position until the end of the season.
Before a ball was kicked Rafa was undoubtedly up against it, which couldn't have been helpful. But to be fair this sort of reception can hardly be labelled as unexpected. You have to wonder why he decided to take the job when he must have been fully aware what the fan's reaction would be to his arrival (especially under these circumstances).
Since Benitez was dismissed as Inter Milan boss in 2010, he had been out of the game and out of work (excluding the occasional pundit appearance on Sky). Over those 2 years of his unemployment plenty of top teams had been in need of a manager, so it makes you wonder; why wasn't he recruited before now?
The new manager was brought in to create a defensive stability within the team, however his stats over the first 16 games show that he has far from achieved that, actually having the 2nd worst defensive record of all Chelsea managers in the Abramovich era. Add this to the fact that under Benitez we have been eliminated from the 2 competitions in which we were extremely strong favourites to bag some silverware; both the Club World Cup and the Capital One Cup. It's safe to say that he has not had a very successful reign at the club thus far.
As the strains of Glenn Miller's classic "In The Mood" echoed around the Amsterdam Arena, Rafael Benitez was planning a leaving present for the Chelsea fans who have almost grown to tolerate him.
Benitez was certainly in the mood to add the Europa League to the Champions League he won at Liverpool in 2005 and the Uefa Cup claimed when coach at Valencia 12 months earlier.
The former Liverpool boss has endured torrid treatment from fans since taking over as interim manager, but looks to have ended his spell in charge on a high after Branislav Ivanovic’s last-minute header against Benfica gave the Blues their second successive European trophy.
However, Benitez has suggested it’s ‘sad’ that success is only quantified by trophies, and insists he would’ve been content with his work at Stamford Bridge whatever happened last night in Amsterdam.
‘This was a reward for how hard we’ve been working all season,’ said Benitez.
‘We have scored 145 goals this season, a record in the history of the club, and not conceded too many,’ he added.
‘The players are growing, improving. If you have to win before people realise the job you are doing…
‘But we did win, so hopefully people will say: “Yes, it’s not bad.” If you analyse everything, we won the Europa League with just one available striker for every single game.
‘We managed players with yellow cards, we did the same in the league, and if you put everything together you will realise how difficult it was with a squad that was not too big. We had 18 players today, with [Nathan] Ake on the bench.
‘This is a team in transition with young players. It was quite difficult from the beginning, but you can see the commitment of the players out there. When you have a manager who is leaving and yet you see them still fighting hard right to the end, you have to be pleased. I think we did well.’
He will still never be loved but history may end up recalling his brief period in charge, which will fizzle out after next week's post-season tour of the US, more fondly. The overriding memory may not be livid mutiny at his mere presence, but of progress and reward.