Interim Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez has hit back at Marco Materazzi, calling the former Inter Milan defender “a liar” after he criticised the Spaniard’s brief spell in charge of the Italian giants.
Materazzi was quoted by France Football as saying that if he had the choice, he would never appoint Benitez as a manager, that he made players feel like schoolboys and that he had tried to undo everything that had made Inter successful under predecessor Jose Mourinho.
“The Inter that won the treble in 2009-10 was well behaved, hard working, disciplined, knew how to go about things,” Materazzi said.
“A great coach, like Jose Mourinho or Lippi, lays down unwritten rules on a squad. But Benitez wanted to have ten or 12 written rules. It was like the highway code or being at school.”
Materazzi also said that Benitez had all the photographs at Inter’s training ground featuring Mourinho, one of his Chelsea’s predecessors who continues to be linked with a return to Stamford Bridge, removed.
But Benitez had no time for Materazzi’s account on Tuesday, telling reporters: “He’s lying. Marco Materazzi is lying. He’s lying, just lying.
“Everything that he said is a lie.”
Tuesday’s news conference was called, as far as Benitez was concerned, to discuss Chelsea’s League Cup semifinal second leg away to Swansea on Wednesday, where the Blues will look to overturn a 2-0 first leg deficit.
And that meant the manager, whose Liverpool links allied to the fact he replaced fans’ favourite Roberto di Matteo have seen him repeatedly jeered by Chelsea supporters, was in no mood to talk about reports that current Real Madrid boss Mourinho was in regular contact with the London club’s owner, Roman Abramovich.
The Portuguese was a popular, trophy-winning, figure during his time at Stamford Bridge and has long been linked with a return to Chelsea.
However, Benitez said: “In Spain, as in England, we have the same situation: we have a window for football, tactics and Swansea; there is another window for other issues.
“We talk about contracts and other things at the other window. This window is for football and tactics.”
Benitez added England left-back Ashley Cole had agreed a one-year contract extension, something both Chelsea and the player confirmed later Tuesday on the European champions’ website.
However, doubt remains over the future of two more Chelsea stalwarts in midfielder Frank Lampard and club captain John Terry.
Former England skipper Terry, who has 18 months left on his contract, has made just one brief substitute appearance since suffering a knee injury in the first half of a draw with Liverpool.
Asked if, as a result, the 32-year-old central defender was annoyed, Benitez replied: “No. I think he knows he will need time…He’ll be involved in the squad and is an option.”
Chelsea’s first-leg loss to Premier League rivals Swansea means they must win the second leg against the Welsh club by three clear goals if they are to take the tie on the away goals rule.
However, Benitez said he did not plan to field both Fernando Torres and fellow striker Demba Ba in his starting line-up.
“It’s not easy for us to play both at the same time given the quality of the players playing behind,” Benitez said. “It’s an option for 15 minutes, and we can do it if necessary.
“We have to go there and try to win. Not just 1-0 – we have to do a bit better than that. But we can do it. We have enough quality.”