Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez claimed his tenure at Stamford Bridge was a “great experience” as the club’s lengthy season came to an end.
Benitez – who was appointed as Chelsea’s interim manager in November after the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo – saw his six-month stay at the club finish with a victory, as goals from Juan Mata and Fernando Torres gave them a 2-1 home win over Everton.
It came just five days after Chelsea won the UEFA Europa League as Benitez, who was heavily criticised by the club’s fans when he took over due to his Liverpool connections, ended on a positive note.
“It was great,” said Benitez when asked how he reflected on his time at Chelsea, who played 69 matches in a marathon campaign that saw them compete for seven different trophies.
“It’s a top side, challenging for trophies, playing two games a week. (There’s) not too much time to go on holidays so it is just coach, play another game. I think it has been a great experience.
“You take a team that was a team in transition with young players. And now we have left a good team, with more experience, more character, scoring goals, more balance.
“I think that will be good for the next manager because he will have a very good team. Also I think the owner will bring more players. I think this team will be challenging for the title next year.”
Benitez saw his team win an unusually open game on Sunday, as both sides squandered a series of good opportunities during an exciting encounter.
Chelsea were far from their best, but Torres spared their blushes with a 76th-minute winner as they secured third place on the Premier League table – and direct qualification into the UEFA Champions League group stages – with their victory.
Benitez felt some slight tactical adjustments at half-time made the difference, as the hosts recovered from a sluggish beginning to finish the stronger.
“I was not quite happy with the chances that they had,” he added. “I was pleased with the chances that we had. It was a very open game in the first half.
“We changed something a little bit, the movement and the position at half-time, and you could see at the beginning of the second half we were pushing and on top of them, regaining balls and creating chances. In the end, the main thing is we won.”
Benitez did not join in the traditional end-of-season lap of honour as his players and staff thanked the supporters, with the Spaniard claiming that was an act “for the families and the players”.