As Massimiliano Allegri nears the exit door at Milan, Alex Mott explains why there's only one man for the job – Rafael Benitez.
Unless you've been living under a rock, it'll probably be clear to you that Milan haven't started the 2012-13 season as well as one may have expected. Losses to Sampdoria, Atalanta, Udinese, Inter, Lazio and Malaga have seen the Rossoneri become the laughing stock of European football – not so much a sleeping giant, as a comatosed one.
The San Siro side sit in 15th position in Serie A, closer to the relegation zone than table-topping Juventus. And only the inconsistencies of Zenit St Petersburg and Anderlecht have stopped them from languishing at the bottom of Champions League Group C.
The swap deal that saw Antonio Cassano cross the city, with Giampaolo Pazzini coming the other way, only dampened fans' moods at the start of the campaign, and the sales of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to Paris Saint-Germain rubbed a vat-full of salt into an already gushing wound.
Of course, off-field deals are not the fault of Coach Massimiliano Allegri, but the downright lack of conviction his side are showing at the moment, surely is. No matter the starting XI, his teams are ponderous, talentless and, quite frankly, bad to watch.
Calls for his head have come loud and clear over the past month, with everyone from Marco Van Basten to Pep Guardiola being linked with the job. Publicly, Vice-President Adriano Galliani has said that the 45-year-old's job is safe - but behind closed doors, wheels have been put in motion for his successor.
The question is then, who should that successor be?
Guardiola is clearly the outstanding candidate. A record-breaking trophy haul at Barcelona, for four years he was at the helm of perhaps the greatest club side of all time. Only four months into his self-imposed sabbatical though, why on earth would he join a club such as Milan? People who know him may claim he loves Italian football, but when you could click your fingers and return to Camp Nou, or hold out for another eight months and have the Manchester United job, why would you come to a team in such turmoil? Clearly, you wouldn't.
Frank Rijkaard has also been linked with post. The man who left Barcelona and struggled at Galatasaray. The Coach who couldn't find work anywhere in Europe and so shacked up at the Saudi Arabian national team. In the situation Milan are in at the moment, the former defensive midfielder just isn't going to work.
Billy Costacurta, Pippo Inzaghi and Van Basten have all had their names chucked into the ring, but, again, in the current predicament, do fans of the club really want a man who failed at Mantova, someone who has no senior coaching experience, or a manager who couldn't find work for three years after messing it up at Ajax? No, no and no. That then, leaves just one man. One realistic candidate, who, given time, could turn the Rossoneri back into the powerhouse they once were.
“There are no stars in this team, or anyone with airs or graces. We are one unit, we work hard for each other and we all pull in the same direction. We have turned in some fantastic attacking displays and some really solid, defensive performances. For that, I must pay tribute to the manager.
“Keeping the lads on the bench and those have missed out on the squad in the frame of mind to make a significant contribution is a difficult task, but Rafa's been able to do that.”
Those the words of Steven Gerrard in his 2007 autobiography. Liverpool around that time could so easily apply to Milan now. No true stars, just exciting talents – with the right management, Stephan El Shaarawy, Mattia De Sciglio and Ricardo Montolivo could be shining stars of Serie A. Under the tutelage of Rafael Benitez, everything could be right again.
You don't win two La Liga titles and a UEFA Cup with Valencia by being a bad Coach. One FA Cup, a European Super Cup and a Champions League title with Liverpool does not come about by accident. Even in just six months at Inter, Benitez managed to lift two trophies with a squad that was tearing itself apart post-Mourinho. The facts are, wherever the Spaniard has gone, trophies have followed.
His tactical nous and expertise have seen him revered around Europe. Fans at Anfield see him as one of their very best. The Mestalla still worships on Rafa's alter. Milan just need give him a chance, and then they can hail their very own Rafalution.
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