The idea of bringing Rafa Benitez back to Stamford Bridge is, understandably, not an overwhelmingly popular one.
When he joined the club back in 2012 as the emergency fix for the mess Roberto Di Matteo left behind, Benitez was met with a vicious chorus of boos. Fans were disgusted that this former Liverpool manager, who had publicly mocked Chelsea fans in the past, was now demanding their respect.
It was a union which only lasted six months or so, but there are a few rumours out there suggesting we could be set for round two.
Benitez recently walked away from Chinese side Dalian Professional amid concerns over the health of his family during the COVID-19 outbreak, so his name can now be added to the list of managers who could immediately replace under-fire boss Frank Lampard, whose Chelsea side are in a bit of a rut these days.
The Blues have tumbled down to ninth in the Premier League, level on points with tenth-placed Southampton who have a game in hand, and it’s led to speculation that Lampard’s head could roll in the very near future if things don’t get better.
Could history be about to repeat itself? Could Benitez come in to steady the ship after a turbulent spell under a Chelsea legend?
The toxicity of his first spell at Chelsea is exactly the kind of thing the Blues do not need right now, but there’s an important difference between the 2012/13 season and the current campaign – the lack of fans.
It was supporters who made Benitez’s first spell at Chelsea uncomfortable. Don’t get it twisted, they had very good reasons for their animosity towards the Spaniard, who had directly criticised them in the past, but it didn’t exactly help things.
However, when it came to the players, it’s safe to say that Benitez was fairly well-received.
Under the Spaniard, Chelsea rebounded to finish third in the Premier League and reach the semi-finals of both the League Cup and FA Cup, but their greatest achievement was lifting the Europa League trophy when all was said and done.
Benitez came in, whipped the players back into shape and managed to save a season which looked destined to be a huge embarrassment. Sound familiar?
With fans not coming back to Stamford Bridge anytime soon, there would be no outside distraction. Benitez could keep his head down and focus on picking up results with his players, safe in the knowledge that he’s not going to be booed for breathing.
The only thing that would matter would be Benitez’s ability to get the most out of his squad, and while he’s no longer seen with the same mystique he was during his first spell with Liverpool, there’s no denying that Benitez brings the kind of characteristics Chelsea need these days.
“He always focuses on small details, a very organised coach and makes sure individuals are well drilled in every position and then he goes through the units,” Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard told BBC Radio 5 Live back in 2017.
“He always did the team shape on a daily basis. It’s probably the part of training that he focuses most on whereas coaches around him for example might do a shooting session, getting possession and other stuff. But when it comes down to how he wants his 11 to be drilled in possession and out of possession.
“He always makes sure that every single player in his 11 and his unit, those that are ready to come off the bench, know exactly what’s expected of them.”
For Chelsea, the talent of the squad isn’t an issue. The dressing room is overflowing with individual quality, but it’s how those individuals have meshed together as a unit that has focused the spotlight on Lampard’s management.
If owner Roman Abramovich does lose his patience with Lampard, the belief is that he would want to bring somebody in on a long-term deal, but calling up Benitez to save the day once again shouldn’t be ruled out.