It started innocently enough. Rafa Benitez succeeded his old rival, Jose Mourinho, at Inter in the summer of 2010. After all, there are only so many top jobs in football and there’s a certain logic that says an opening with a club that just won the treble weeks before is impossible for any manager to pass up.
But then, after quickly washing out at Inter and disappearing for two years, Benitez took over Chelsea, the club Mourinho managed when they were direct and frequent adversaries. This was strange. Especially since Benitez had previously said that he wouldn’t work for this club. But, again, there are only so many top jobs and Benitez had to take what he could get in the wake of his swift dismissal at Inter.
Then, after two years with Napoli (perhaps just to throw off the suspicious and put a hiccup in the developing pattern), he somehow fell upward to another one of Mourinho’s former clubs: Real Madrid.
Benitez started both his playing career and managerial career at Real Madrid and it had long been regarded as his dream job, though. A fact that was enough to limit any talk of a dark quest to experience what Jose Mourinho has experienced to jokes and put downs.
Now Benitez is going a step further and saying what Mourinho says, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that his life’s mission is to wear Jose Mourinho’s skin like some kind of Special Onesie.
Speaking to the press amidst speculation that he could soon get sacked and rumors of discord within Real Madrid’s squad, Benitez went full Mourinho. From the BBC:
“Everything that is open to criticism is criticised and that which is not is manipulated,” Benitez told reporters.
“What is clear is that there is a campaign against Florentino Perez, against Real Madrid and against the manager.
“Surveys are carried out continuously and the media’s interest in doing them is part of their interest in manipulating things”.
A “campaign” against Real Madrid involving the media. Compare that to a highly publicized quote from Mourinho last season, during his second stint with Chelsea (via the BBC):
“The media, commentators, other managers are all doing it [putting pressure on referees].”
In his news conference later, he added: “There is a campaign against Chelsea. I don’t know why there is this campaign and I do not care.
A “campaign” against Chelsea involving the media.
Mourinho has only managed three clubs outside of his native Portugal and Benitez has followed him at all three.
These are not coincidences. These are clear evidences of Rafa Benitez’s growing obsession with Jose Mourinho.
So why does he want to wear his skin? I don’t know. Maybe the years of Mourinho’s personal insults combined with their professional battles to make Benitez want to do it out of an intense hatred. Or maybe his failure at Inter, a place where Mourinho had just succeeded so spectacularly, coupled with a hidden yearning for Mourinho’s friendship to make Benitez want to do it out of a mixed up adoration. Either way, the progression is an obvious one. First he takes the same jobs as Mourinho, then he says the same things as Mourinho, then he removes Mourinho’s skin from his body and wears it as his own, consuming the essence of Mourinho and advancing to a higher plane of enlightenment and supernatural power. It’s a tale as old as time.
The many enemies Mourinho has made in England, Spain, and Italy could aid Benitez in his mission through a variety of ways and Mourinho’s current unemployment provides a convenient opportunity to become him and start anew.
Mourinho has laughed at Benitez many times. But if Benitez carries out his plan, he will have the last laugh. And he’ll do it while wearing Mourinho’s skin. So, in a way, Mourinho will have the last laugh, as well.
Rafa might want to think about all this a bit more before he takes it to its conclusion.