Rafael Benítez's uneasy relationship with a section of Chelsea supporters took a new twist on Tuesday when he confirmed that no external influences - and certainly not the supporters - will force him to deviate from what he believes to be the right team for the right match. He was right, of course, but probably wrong to say it.
"You have a word in English: manager," Benítez said. "The manager has to manage and consider everything, and afterwards he has to decide. I talk with my staff, the players, and I have all the feedback and information. Then I make a decision. I consider everything before making a decision."
Benítez is a master of stating the bleeding obvious, although, as English is his second language, it would be churlish to criticise him on that point. The problem is that there is a PR war going on at Chelsea. On one side, Benítez; on the other, the more radical fans, who will not support the manager even if brings success to the club. You see, Benítez is too inextricably linked to Liverpool, and that makes him anathema to Chelsea.
I have always rated Benítez, even when his reputation took a tumble after his debacle at Internazionale. I was one of the Liverpool supporters who hoped he would replace Kenny Dalglish last summer. I believe Benítez to be a tactical genius who only needs the right staff alongside him (just like Brian Clough always needed Peter Taylor, and was never the same without him). The problem with Benítez is that he does not communicate particularly well. He has never been a "players' manager" and his comments in interviews can baffle and alienate people.
Benítez is the professor who cannot deliver a decent lecture.
Telling the Chelsea fans they do not pick the team is a statement of fact but hardly the best way of making friends and influencing people.