ROME: European champions Inter Milan sacked coach Rafael Benitez on Thursday just a few days after he guided them to the World Club Cup title and looks set to be replaced by former AC Milan coach Brazilian Leonardo.
The two parties reached a mutual agreement over terminating the Spaniard's contract, ending days of speculation about the former Liverpool manager's future after he had used the World Club Cup win to launch a bizarre outburst against the club's board and their lack of support in the transfer market, as well as an attack on the players.
Inter, who turned to Benitez when Jose Mourinho left for Real Madrid in the summer, issued a curt statement confirming that the Spaniard's short reign had been brought to a premature and inglorious end after holding talks with his agent.
“Inter Milan and Rafael Benitez can announce that they have reached a mutually satisfactory agreement for the early termination of his contract.
“Inter thank Rafael Benitez for his work in leading his team to success in the Italian Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.”
Club president Massimo Moratti, though, later told Italian agency Ansa that there had been no way they could continue working together after such an outburst.
“I am sorry that we have ended our relationship with Benitez, but the rupture had become inevitable,” said the 66-year-old oil tycoon, whose father Angelo was president of the club from 1955-68 when they won three Serie A titles and two European Cups.
“Aside from what Benitez said which were the final straw, I wasn't very happy with the manner in which things had gone up to the World Club Cup. Then, obviously, with the things he said put me in such a position that I had neither the will nor the patience to wait any longer.”
Benitez, who is spending his now longer than expected Christmas break in Liverpool, bore no rancour in his initial reaction when he spoke to Ansa.
“I would like to thank everybody for the support I received in my spell at Inter,” he said.
“I would like to thank both on my own behalf, and on behalf of my coaching staff, the players, the directors and the supporters who always had faith in us.
“The two titles we won (the Italian Super Cup being the other) was as a result of the commitment of all those who stayed at our sides, retaining the fundamental principles of professionalism, education, and respect for the decisions of the club.
“I am sad to leave such a big club and I wish the team all the success in the future.
“Finally I would like to thank wholeheartedly the president Massimo Moratti for having chosen me to be coach of Inter.”
Benitez, who won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005, had only been in the post since July after leaving Liverpool by mutual consent and had failed to convince the Inter fans that he could repeat the unique success of predecessor Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho, who never enjoyed close relations with Benitez when they coached Chelsea and Liverpool respectively, had secured the domestic double and the Champions League trophy last season.
Benitez had looked to have ensured he would stay in the post with Saturday's 3-0 World Club Cup final win over Tout Puissant Mazembe in Abu Dhabi and was warmly embraced by Moratti.
However, the 50-year-old – who made his name coaching Valencia – used the post match press conference to attack the board saying he deserved respect.
This was the same board who had stood by him even after they barely qualified for the second round of the Champions League, finishing second behind Spurs in their group.
In Serie A, Inter are seventh – 13 points adrift of bitter city rivals AC Milan, though, they have two games in hand.
“My relationship with the president is good – but I ask the club for help and respect – they did not come up with the goods after what they told me in the summer about (new) signings and so it's not easy,” he said on Saturday.
“There are three possibilities. The first is that they help me and four or five new players come in and make the team even stronger,” said Benitez, pointing out that several of his top stars have turned 30.
“The second is to carry on the same as now without a project or planning and get to May (season's end) that way. And the third is to speak with my agent,” he said, implying that if the club were dissatisfied with him they should find someone else.
He insisted: “My relationship with the club is good – but I am a professional of 25 years standing in football and I want respect and assistance.”
Channel News Asia